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     FrontPage Edition: Fri 30 November 2007

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HIV cases on the rise in 2007

Source: www.moh.gov.sg

HIV CASES ON THE RISE IN 2007 - MOH urges at-risk groups to go for voluntary testing

In the first 10 months of 2007 (Jan-October), there were a total of 356 reported new HIV cases in Singapore. In comparison, there were 357 HIV cases notified for the whole of 2006. It can be expected that the total number of notified HIV cases in 2007 will exceed that of last year.
Regular HIV testing can help limit the spread of the disease. This is especially crucial for people who engage in risky sexual behaviour. HIV testing is available in most medical clinics. The identities of persons who come forward for testing and those who are found to be HIV positive will be kept strictly confidential.
To encourage more to come forward for voluntary testing, MOH has since August allowed medical clinics to offer HIV testing using oral-fluid or blood-based rapid HIV test kits. These rapid HIV tests are screening tests that can produce results in approximately 20 minutes.
Medical clinics that wish to offer HIV testing with rapid HIV test kits must first participate in an MOH training workshop on the use of these test kits. To date, close to 200 clinics have participated in these and nearly 100 clinics are currently offering HIV testing with rapid HIV test kits.
Anonymous HIV testing using rapid HIV test kits is also available in three sites in Singapore 2 GP clinics (Anteh Dispensary and Cambridge Clinic) and the Action for AIDS anonymous HIV test site.
Between January and September 2007, a total of 5,967 anonymous HIV tests were carried out at the three sites, compared to a total of 3,416 anonymous HIV tests between July and Dec last year.
As more HIV testing is carried out, we would expect an increasing number of new HIV cases to be notified to MOH. However, this does not necessarily mean that there are more new infections.
As people who are infected with HIV may not present with symptoms for several years, people who are newly detected to have HIV may in fact have acquired their infection several years ago.
With HIV testing made more convenient, MOH hopes to see a decrease in the number of people who present in late-stage HIV infection.
In the first 6 months of 2007, more than half (55%) of the new cases already had late-stage HIV infection when they were diagnosed, similar to the pattern seen in 2006. This underscores the importance of people who are at risk of HIV infection going for regular HIV testing, as early diagnosis and treatment can help to significantly delay the onset of AIDS and reduce the risk of death.
New cases of HIV infection reported between July through October 2007
Between July and October 2007, another 192 new HIV cases were reported. These are in addition to the 164 cases reported earlier in the first 6 months of 2007. giving a total of 356 cases from Jan to October 2007. The additional new cases are currently undergoing further investigation, and more information on them will be released at a later date.
MOH regularly updates information on new HIV cases on its website. Data for the first 6 months of 2007 is reproduced in Annex A.
How individuals and employers can help prevent HIV
Public education and prevention of new cases of HIV infection is the key to controlling the HIV epidemic in Singapore. Individuals must take responsibility to protect themselves from HIV infection.
Those who engage in risky sexual behaviour are strongly encouraged to use condoms to protect themselves from HIV infection and to go for regular HIV testing. Examples of risky sexual behaviour include:
(a) having unprotected sex with someone who is HIV-infected or who is at high risk of being infected with HIV, such as men who have sex with men, and commercial sex workers and their clients; and

(b) having unprotected sex with multiple partners.

As the statistics showed that 90% of newly diagnosed HIV cases are in the economically productive age groups of 20-59 years, MOH strongly encourages employers to adopt a more pro-active role in HIV prevention at the workplace. Suitable HIV/AIDS prevention and education programmes can be introduced at the workplace to reach this target group.
One example is the programme, entitled RESPECT (Rallying Employers to Support the Prevention, Education and Control of STI/HIV/AIDS) which was developed by the Health Promotion Board in 2004.
The programme equips working adults with skills to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS, and also seeks to educate them about HIV/AIDS so as to reduce discrimination and stigmatization of people living with HIV/AIDS.
For more information about HIV testing, visit the HPB website at http://www.hpb.gov.sg/aids/page6.htm.
For more information about the workplace HIV/AIDS programme, contact the Health Promotion Board at HPB_CDE@hpb.gov.sg, Tel: 6435-3178.
More.....

Source: www.moh.gov.sg Press Release 30 Nov 2007

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