SINGAPORE, Dec 1 — Singapore detected 198 new cases of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) among citizens and permanent residents in the first 10 months of the year, a fall of 10 per cent year-on-year, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said today.

The lower figure could be related to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, MOH said in a media statement.

In an analysis of the 119 HIV cases which were reported in the first six months of the year, MOH noted that a majority of the infections — or 93 per cent —were men.

It added that 48 per cent of the cases were those aged between 20 and 39 while 33 per cent of the cases were among those who were aged between 40 and 59.

MOH also found that 60 per cent of these 119 cases had late-stage HIV infection at diagnosis.

“This is 6 per cent higher compared to the same period last year,” it said.

MOH added that sexual intercourse remained the main mode of HIV transmission and accounted for 94 per cent of the cases in the first half of the year.

“Homosexual transmission was the mode of transmission for 55 per cent of all cases, while 35 per cent were from heterosexual transmission and 4 per cent from bisexual transmission,” said the ministry.

MOH added that the majority of the newly reported cases — or 57 per cent — were detected by HIV tests which were performed in the course of medical care “typically at a late stage of HIV infection”.

Another 15 per cent of the cases were detected during routine programmatic HIV screening which include screening programmes for people with sexually transmitted infections, hospital inpatients as well as those who were identified through contact tracing.

A further 21 per cent of the HIV cases were detected through self-initiated HIV screening while the remaining 7 per cent had been detected through “other forms of screening”.

MOH noted that a higher proportion of people who identify as homosexuals or bisexuals (30 per cent) had their HIV infection detected via self-initiated HIV screening compared to heterosexuals (10 per cent).

Public advisory

The number of HIV cases here has been falling since 2019, when 323 infections were reported for the full year. In 2020, a total of 261 HIV cases were reported.

MOH urged those who are at risk of HIV infection to go for regular testing.

“Regular HIV testing and early diagnosis can facilitate early treatment and care. This would also provide an opportunity for infected persons to protect their partners from infection, as HIV-positive individuals who are on treatment and have an undetectable viral load have practically no risk of transmitting the virus to their sexual partners,” said MOH.

“With early and effective treatment, persons living with HIV can continue to lead active and productive lives.”

MOH said avoiding casual sex is the most effective way to prevent HIV infection. Condoms should be used correctly in all sexual encounters, it added. — TODAY