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Macao's HIV infections 'relatively low': official
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A total of 21 new HIV infections were reported in Macao in 2007, representing a 25 percent decrease over the previous year, which showed a "relatively low" infection rate, said a senior official of the Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) government on Tuesday.

Cumulatively, only 391 HIV infections have been reported in this island city of 520,000 residents since 1986, and the virus was transmitted mainly through heterosexual contact, according to figures released by the SAR government's Health Bureau.

Although Macao has seen a low HIV infection rate, but official statistics has showed neighboring Hong Kong reported an 11 percent increase in 2007 over the previous year. As a result, "we will step up our effort to prevent the virus from further spreading," said Chui Sai On, secretary for social affairs and culture of the SAR government.

He made the remark when attending a meeting of Macao's Commission for HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control.

In a bid to address the HIV/AIDS issues, the SAR government in 2005 established the Commission, and Chui was appointed as its president. Since then, the Commission has funded many local NGOs (non-governmental organizations) to launch activities that were aimed to enhance public awareness of the HIV/AIDS prevention.

Besides the above activities, Chui noted that the Commission will launch a venereal disease and HIV/AIDS monitoring plan this year so as to collect more epidemiological information, based on which the SAR government can form its policy on the prevention of the disease.

The UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS) estimated that the year 2007 saw 4.9 million people living with HIV across Asia, including 440,000 people who became newly infected, and approximately 300,000 who died from AIDS-related illnesses.

The UN body also pointed out in its report that at the heart of many of Asia's epidemics lies the interplay between drug injection and unprotected sex.

(Xinhua News Agency, March 12, 2008)

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