SINGAPORE: A total of 361 new cases of HIV infection were reported among Singapore citizens and permanent residents in the first 10 months of this year, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Friday (Dec 1).
Of these, MOH analysed 194 cases reported between January and June, and found that 96 per cent of those infected are male. Nearly half (46 per cent) were between the ages of 20 and 39.
The ministry also noted that about 42 per cent of the cases had late-stage HIV infection when they were diagnosed, a slight increase from the 38 per cent for the same period last year.
Sexual intercourse remains the main mode of transmission, said MOH, accounting for 97 per cent of the 194 cases. It added that 53 per cent of the cases were from homosexual transmission, 34 per cent from heterosexual transmission and 10 per cent from bisexual transmission.
AT-RISK GROUPS URGED TO GO FOR REGULAR SCREENING
Of the newly reported 361 cases, MOH said 43 per cent were detected by HIV tests in the course of medical care while 28 per cent were detected during routine HIV screening programmes.
Voluntary HIV screening detected another 25 per cent of the cases.
The rest were detected through other types of screening, such as during medical checks for employment or insurance, said MOH.
It is urging at-risk groups to go for regular HIV testing as early diagnosis leads to early treatment and care. It also allows those infected to protect their partners from infection.
"With early and effective treatment, persons living with HIV can delay the onset of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and continue to lead an active and productive life," said MOH.
The ministry also reiterated that the most effective way to prevent an HIV infection is to remain faithful to one's spouse or partner, and to avoid sex with sex workers.
The number of new HIV infections yearly has been falling. In 2016, there were 408 new cases reported among Singapore citizens and permanent residents. The figure was 455 in 2015.
Still, many people with HIV face stigma and discrimination in various aspects of their lives, noted Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor.
"Many are diagnosed when they are in their prime working age, and most feel that they are likely to be discriminated against or lose their jobs if their employers were to find out about their HIV diagnosis," she said.
To ensure equal access to employment opportunities, Dr Khor said the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), Health Promotion Board and Tan Tock Seng Hospital will be launching a guide on workplace HIV practices.
"I urge all employers to work with us on this. A supportive environment is crucial to help us successfully address any stigmatisation and discrimination at the workplace," said Dr Khor.