Singapore is seeing a downward trend in the number of new human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cases reported among its citizens and permanent residents, according to figures released by the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Sunday (Dec 1).
In total, 275 new cases of HIV were detected from January to October in 2019, slightly higher than the 265 diagnosed in the same period last year. However, it was still fewer than the 361 and 319 cases reported in 2017 and 2016 respectively.
Of the cases detected this year, 90 per cent were men.
In addition, about 41 per cent of those diagnosed this year were 20 to 39 years old, while those aged between 40 to 59 years accounted for 40 per cent of all reported cases.
According to the authority, homosexual intercourse was the mode of transmission for over half of the 154 HIV cases reported from January to June 2019. This is a 10 per cent increase from 43 per cent in the same period last year.
The ministry also found that 19 per cent of newly reported cases this year were detected through voluntary screenings, a 2 per cent increase from last year.
Another 20 per cent were detected during routine programmatic HIV screening, while the majority – 55 per cent – were detected by HIV tests done in the course of medical care.
Approximately 49 per cent already had late-stage HIV at diagnosis, down from 53 per cent from the same period last year, MOH added.
Homosexuals and bisexuals more likely to voluntarily test for HIV
In addition, there was a stark contrast between the proportion of homosexuals and bisexuals (30 per cent) and the proportion of heterosexuals (4 per cent) who had their HIV detected through voluntary screening
In November, a community blueprint published by non-profit group Action for AIDS (AFA) said that there are now more than half a million people at risk of acquiring HIV in Singapore.
With the aim of eradicating the disease in Singapore by 2030, the blueprint recommended that HIV testing be introduced as a part of regular health screenings.
HIV, the virus that causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), can be transmitted through unprotected sex acts or through sharing needles, syringes, or other injection equipment.
It can also be passed on to a child by his mother during pregnancy, or from breastfeeding.
There is no known cure for the disease. But effective antiretroviral drugs can control the virus and help prevent transmission.