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Number of HIV cases climbing to record high
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The number of HIV positive cases in Hong Kong is expected to reach a record 400 this year, said Centre for Health Protection controller Thomas Tsang yesterday.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of the University of Hong Kong's (HKU) AIDS Institute, Tsang said HIV cases had been rising over the past two years.

There are about 200 HIV cases in the first two quarters and the number would be more than 200 on average for the last two quarters.

Tsang said that the total number of infected cases, most of which were infected in Hong Kong, would be over 400 this year.

The rising trend is likely to continue next year, he added.

Besides an increasing number of cases, Tsang said there is a changing pattern in the mode of virus transmission in Hong Kong.

Five years ago, 50 percent of the infected were male. But the pattern had changed from last year, he said.

Tsang said one-third of virus is transmitted through sex between the same sex, one-third through sex between different sexes, and the other one-third through the use of syringe.

The main reason behind the phenomenon is unprotected sex among male, he said.

More research must be done to understand the changing mode of virus transmission, he said.

Public education, including an extensive promotion of safe sex is most important to prevent and control the epidemic in Hong Kong, he said.

David Ho, Honorary director of the AIDS Institute and inventor of combination antiretroviral therapy ("cocktail therapy"), said there are 7,000 HIV cases each day in the world.

Compared to the mainland, India and South East Asian countries, he said the situation in Hong Kong is not as serious and the number of infected cases is at a reasonable level.

Unprotected sex among male had become commonplace worldwide and is not unique in Hong Kong, he added.

For example, on the mainland, most HIV infected cases in the past stemmed from selling blood and taking drugs. But nowadays sex among male has become a common way of virus transmission.

Talking about the measures about how to combat the deadly scourge, he said more education must be provided for the high-risk groups.

He said in the past few years, failure of a protein vaccine and a drug had made scientists look for new ways to cure AIDS.

Director of the AIDS Institute and virologist Chen Zhiwei said the institute's priority is to develop an effective AIDS vaccine.

The institute will design a new vaccine that could target protective antibiotics in human immunity system, he said.

Among other works, the institute does research on understanding AIDS pathogenesis and monitoring evolution of AIDS in Hong Kong and the mainland.

HKU has allocated HK$50 million to the AIDS Institute, which has started operation in August.

(China Daily November 23, 2007)

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