scmp_01dec10_ns_aids3_sam_6846_19067915Hong Kong: Gay men constitute the biggest group of new HIV patients in Hong Kong, a fact that health experts say raises concerns that the message on the importance of safe sex is not getting through.

The number of new HIV cases recorded in Hong Kong  is set to hit a record high for the fourth year running and may pass 600 for the first time,  says a government consultant, according to

Some 304 new cases were diagnosed in the first half of the year, Dr Wong Ka-hing said adding that the figure was more than the 262 new cases reported in the same period last year.

There were 559 new HIV cases in the whole of last year.

This  raises concerns that young people were among those affected and that the message on the importance of safe sex is not getting through.

Wong, a Health Department consultant, told that gay men made up the biggest group of new patients and that this was in line with international trends.

“It is worrying. It is likely that the annual figure will surge past 600, which will be the highest figure in Hong Kong history,” Wong said.

Of the 150 new cases reported between April and June, more than 80 per cent were men. Of this more than half had had sex with other men.

A health department survey last year revealed that only 70 per cent of gay men used a condom during sex.

“The trend for HIV to infect men who have sex with men has increased significantly in recent years, while the figure for the heterosexual group remains stable,” Wong said.

Last year’s figure of 559 was a nine per cent increase on the 513 cases in 2012.

The new cases this year bring the total number reported since records of HIV cases began in 1984 to 6,646.

Two AIDS concern groups say they are concerned at the number of young people contracting HIV as  59 of the 150 patients diagnosed in the second quarter this year were below 30 years.

Aids Concern said this number of young HIV patients was “alarming” and Jim Hoe, program manager for the organization’s youth work, said he believed this was partly due to deficiencies in sex education.

The Hong Kong Aids Foundation said it would step up education to promote safer sex among young gay men and encourage those who had unprotected gay sex to take HIV tests.

Without treatment, about half of those who contract HIV will go on to develop life threatening Aids within 10 years. Receiving treatment reduces the possibility of developing Aids by 90 per cent.