361 new HIV cases reported from Jan to Oct: MOH

Ministry and Health Promotion Board urge at-risk groups to go for regular testing

A total of 361 new cases of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections was reported among Singapore residents in the first 10 months of this year, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said yesterday.

Along with the Health Promotion Board (HPB), MOH urged at-risk groups to go for regular HIV testing.

The ministry analysed 194 cases that were reported in the first half of the year and found that 96 per cent were male and 46 per cent were aged between 20 and 39.

About 42 per cent of the cases had late-stage HIV infection when they were diagnosed, up from 38 per cent in the same period last year.

MOH said sexual intercourse accounted for 97 per cent of the 194 cases analysed. Heterosexual transmission was involved in 34 per cent of these cases, while 53 per cent of them were from homosexual transmission and 10 per cent from bisexual transmission.

About 43 per cent of the newly reported cases were detected by HIV tests done in the course of medical care. Another 28 per cent were detected during routine programmatic HIV screening, which includes screening programmes for those with sexually transmitted infections, hospital inpatients and those identified through contact tracing.

Voluntary HIV screening detected another 25 per cent. The remaining cases were detected through other types of screening such as general health screening or medical checks for employment.

A higher proportion of homosexuals and bisexuals - 32 per cent - had their infection detected via voluntary screening compared with heterosexuals, who made up 14 per cent.

MOH said the most effective way to prevent HIV infection "is to remain faithful to one's spouse or partner and to avoid casual sex, and sex with sex workers".

It strongly advised people who engage in high-risk sexual behaviour, such as having multiple sexual partners or engaging in casual or commercial sex, to use condoms to reduce the risk of HIV infection.

The ministry and HPB urged those at risk to go for regular HIV testing, stressing that it not only allows the infected person to have early treatment and care, but also lets them learn about protecting their partners from infection.

HPB has been conducting programmes and campaigns with partner organisations to encourage at-risk individuals to go for early and regular HIV testing.

Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Health and the Environment and Water Resources, said people living with HIV continue to face stigma and discrimination.

"Ensuring equal access to employment and job opportunities is a significant part of putting a stop to the HIV epidemic," she added.

Dr Khor said she was pleased that the Singapore National Employers Federation, together with HPB and Tan Tock Seng Hospital, will be launching an implementation guide on workplace HIV practices.

"A supportive environment is crucial to help us successfully address any stigmatisation and discrimination in the workplace."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 02, 2017, with the headline '361 new HIV cases reported from Jan to Oct: MOH'. Print Edition | Subscribe