From January to October, 361 new cases of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections were reported among Singapore citizens and permanent residents, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Friday (1 December).
In a press release on World AIDS Day, MOH noted that about 43 per cent of these new cases over the period were detected by HIV tests conducted in the course of medical care. Routine programmatic HIV screening accounted for another 28 per cent, while a quarter were detected through voluntary HIV screening.
MOH noted that there was also a higher proportion of homosexuals or bisexuals (32 per cent) who had their infection detected through voluntary screening, compared with heterosexuals (14 per cent).
Nevertheless, the ministry said that the number of HIV/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) cases reported had been declining over the previous three years. There were 456 cases in 2014, 455 cases in 2015, and 408 cases last year.
“MOH and the Health Promotion Board urge individuals at risk of HIV protection to go for regular HIV testing. Regular HIV testing can help diagnose an infected person at an early stage of infection,” said an MOH spokesman. “Early diagnosis allows for early treatment and care, and provides the opportunity for those infected to learn about protecting their partners from infection.”
With early and effective treatment, those living with HIV can delay the onset of AIDS and continue to lead an active and productive life, MOH added.
According to an analysis of 194 of the cases reported between January and June, 96 per cent of these were men. Nearly half (46 per cent) were aged between 20 and 39 years old.
For these cases, the main mode of HIV transmission was sexual intercourse, accounting for 97 per cent of the cases. About 34 per cent of the cases resulted from heterosexual transmission, while 53 per cent were from homosexual transmission and 10 per cent were from bisexual transmission.
MOH reiterated that 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.
Those who engage in high-risk sexual behaviour, such as having multiple sexual partners or engaging in casual or commercial sex, are strongly advised to use condoms to reduce their risk of HIV infection, MOH added.