61 Filipinos test positive for HIV in HK

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Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong

A total of 61 Filipinos had been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS (human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) here in Hong Kong since 2014, according to the HK Department of Health (DH).

This number included 12 Filipinos who were among the new 141 non-Chinese HIV cases reported to the DH-Centre for Health Protection (CHP) last year.

A DH spokesman said that 11 Filipinos were diagnosed with HIV in 2014; 12 in 2015; 11 in 2016; 15 in 2017; and 12 last year.

“Among the HIV cases reported in 2018, nine out of 12 Filipino cases were female,” the spokesman said, adding that their ages ranged from 25 to 60 years old.

“Regarding the route of transmission, among all the new HIV cases, nine Filipinos acquired the infection via heterosexual contact (main route of transmission) while three 3 Filipinos,” he said.

The spokesman added that “nearly half of the cases” involving Filipinos were reported to have acquired HIV in places outside Hong Kong.

He added that the CHP does not maintain data regarding the patients’ professions and residential status.

Among Indonesians, the total number of HIV patients reached 98 in the last five years, with 28 Indonesians being diagnosed last year.

The DH spokesperson said that ethnic minorities was one of the six “high-risk groups” identified by the Hong Kong Advisory Council on AIDS (ACA).

The ACA noted that non-Asian Chinese constituted 11 percent of the newly reported HIV infection cases from 2011 to 2015 which it said was “disproportionately higher than the five percent of non-Chinese Asians among the Hong Kong population.”

“They included Indonesians (20 percent), Filipino (15 percent), Thai (13 percent), Nepalese (eight percent) and Vietnamese (12 percent),” the ACA said.

It also noted that the HIV infection among ethnic minorities were often diagnosed late with their CD4 white blood cells count “less than 200 cell/UL.”

The CD4 cell count is an indication of how healthy a person’s immune system is. People with a CD4 cell count of less than 200 are at high risk of developing serious illnesses.

“Ethnic minorities are one of the key populations of HIV infection locally,” the DH spokesperson said, adding that projects aimed at helping them would get higher funding priority.

The ACA had recommended strengthened HIV education, promotion of HIV prevention through condom use and regular HIV testing among non-Chinese Asians and Africans.

“The services should be culture- and language-sensitive, confidentiality should be emphasized, and access should be made easy and affordable,” the ACA said, adding that linkage to care after diagnosis in indispensable.

“Expertise in providing EM (ethnic minority) programmes, such as in-depth training for interpreters on topics of HIV and health should be developed. Publicity of interpretation service should be further enhanced,” ACA added.

The DH spokesman emphasized the importance of early detection of HIV so that those infected could have a higher chance of survival.

“Nowadays, antiretroviral therapy can effectively suppress HIV, prevent opportunistic infections, and increase the survival rate. The effect of treatment is most prominent if a patient is diagnosed and treated early,” he said.

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