Number of HIV/AIDS Cases in Singapore Reached Record High Last Year
The number of reported HIV/AIDS cases in Singapore reached a record high last year, the country's Ministry of Health said Wednesday in a statement on its Web site, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. The ministry reported 422 new cases of HIV in 2007, which was the highest number in a single year since record-keeping began in 1985 (AFP/Yahoo! News, 4/30).
Ninety-three percent of the new reported HIV cases were among males, and 95% were transmitted through sexual intercourse (AP/Google.com, 4/29). Of the new reported cases, 255 were transmitted through heterosexual intercourse, and 130 occurred through same-sex intercourse -- a 38% increase from 2006, Channel NewsAsia/Yahoo! News reports. The number of people reported to have contracted HIV through injection drug use decreased from 14 in 2006 to seven last year. One case occurred through a blood transfusion in another country.
Singapore citizens and permanent residents between ages 30 and 49 accounted for 57% of all new HIV cases reported last year, the ministry said. One in eight cases were between people ages 20 and 29. Ten people under age 20 were diagnosed with HIV, including one case of mother-to-child transmission, the ministry said.
About 29% of the cases reported among men who have sex with men were among people who voluntarily sought HIV testing, compared with 5% of reported cases among heterosexuals (Channel NewsAsia/Yahoo! News, 4/29). More than 50% of the new cases had progressed to late-stage HIV at the time of diagnosis, similar to previous years, the ministry said. "There is ... an urgent need for persons who engage in high-risk behavior ... to go for regular HIV testing," the ministry's Web site said (AP/Google.com, 4/29).
Singapore's Parliament last week approved a bill that would make it a crime for people who have reason to believe that they might be HIV-positive to have sex without informing their partners of the risks. Those who violate the measure could be punished even if they test negative for HIV. Violators could face as much as 10 years in prison and a $50,000 fine. Punishment for those who know they are HIV-positive and decline to tell their partners -- which currently is a crime under a 1992 law -- would be increased to the same level. No one has been prosecuted under the 1992 law. Enforcement of the proposed law would depend on whether the "aggrieved" partner files a complaint and prosecutors can prove that the defendant has a history of risky sexual behavior. United Nations agencies and HIV/AIDS advocates oppose Singapore's proposed measure. According to the government, the measure would encourage people to seek HIV testing and to avoid risky behavior (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/24).