HIV Increasing Among MSM in Hong Kong; Researchers Call for Improved Prevention Efforts
The number of new HIV cases recorded among men who have sex with men in Hong Kong has increased every year since 2003, and up to one-third of the population could be HIV-positive by 2020 if prevention programs are not effective, researchers said recently, Reuters reports. The number of newly recorded annual HIV cases among MSM increased from 50 in 2003 to 67 in 2004, 96 in 2005 and 112 in 2006. The number of newly recorded annual HIV cases among heterosexuals stayed within the range of 110 to 116 each year, according to Reuters.
"If all our actions fail by 2020, we can have one-third infected in the community," Wong Ka-hing of the government's Centre for Health Protection said, adding, "Some of them may go on to infect women." According to Reuters, 4% of MSM in Hong Kong are HIV-positive, and genetic analyses of HIV samples indicate that three strains are circulating in the local community. "There are three clusters (of people infected by the three strains)," Wong said, adding that researchers "investigated and found common risk factors like a number of people attending the same sex parties, Internet use (to search for sex partners), using recreational drugs, unsafe sex" and sexually transmitted infections. According to Wong, "Not many people (in this community) think safe sex is important." He added that condom use among MSM -- recorded at 70% with casual partners and 40% with regular partners -- is lower than among heterosexual men in certain circumstances. Condom use among heterosexual men is recorded at between 80% to 90% with commercial sex workers, Wong said.
Chen Zhiwei, director of the AIDS Institute, said that faster testing is needed to curb the spread of HIV. Most HIV tests used in Hong Kong search for HIV antibodies, and Chen said that these tests can miss newly infected cases because the body does not produce antibodies until two weeks to a few months after transmission. "Early diagnosis is very important," Chen said, adding, "We need to identify newly infected cases, especially among people who are sexually active. Immediately after infection, the viral load is very high, so the chance of transmitting to others is very high." Chen also said that polymerase chain reaction tests, which can detect HIV in the blood, should be used to detect recent infections (Ee Lyn, Reuters, 10/17).