Singapore: The latest health ministry figures of the number of gay and bisexual people with HIV/Aids is worrying, says Singapore’s premier voluntary organization that helps those living with the infection.
The number of new cases of HIV and Aids in Singapore fell slightly last year to 454, 15 less than in 2012 but Action for Aids says there has been a “worrying” rise in infections among gay men, according to a Straits Times report that appeared in allsingaporestuff.com.
The Ministry of Health revealed the figures recently, which also showed that the number of gay and bisexual cases has risen from 166 in 2009 to 247 last year.
In contrast, the number of heterosexual men infected fell from 241 to 157 in the same period.
A decade ago, gay men who contracted HIV accounted for less than 30 per cent of male infections but they now make up more than 60 per cent.
An Action for Aids spokesman said the rise in gay HIV transmission could be because people are not as fearful of contracting the infection as previously due to the availability of effective anti-retroviral medication.
However, he added that there is a degree of “condom fatigue” in Singapore. Surveys show that the rates of condom use have remained steady at about 50-60 percent but that this is “unsatisfactory” he said.
Action for Aids also maintains that social media has made it easier for people to hook up for casual sex and reduced the age at which many couples first have intercourse.
“We need to review our programs and reassess our approaches to prevention and care,” the spokesman said. “We need to engage and involve at-risk communities at all levels, from policy reviews to program planning, implementation and evaluation.”
The health ministry figures include both the infection and the disease and said that 41 per cent of new cases last year were “late stage.”
Most of the new cases were men, two-thirds of whom were single.
Almost half the people diagnosed last year found out about their infection when they were in hospital, while one in five discovered it following voluntary HIV screenings.
Since 1985, there were 6,454 people in Singapore who have been infected, including 155 diagnosed this year. More than a quarter have died.
Action for Aids started in 1988 in response to the development of acquired immune deficiency syndrome and the first report of a case in Singapore two years earlier.
It has since been providing support and help to those living with HIV/AIDS, increasing awareness and understanding of the infection, fighting against discrimination and stigmatization, and pushing for research.