7th July 2022 – (Hong Kong) The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health today said that collaborations with various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have been stepped up to provide public health services in the prevention of HIV/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), and members of the public are reminded to practise safer sex so as to reduce the risk of acquiring HIV.
Speaking at a press conference today, the Head of Public Health Services Branch of the CHP, Dr Wong Ka-hing, said that the Government has been working tirelessly with various NGOs to provide AIDS prevention services. Through innovative strategies such as organising online workshops and launching HIV self-tests, the coverage of testing and other preventive works has been maintained during the COVID-19 epidemic.
Dr Wong remarked that sexual transmission has remained the major mode of HIV transmission in Hong Kong.
On reviewing the latest situation, Dr Wong pointed out that an unusual increase of HIV new infections among female sex workers (FSWs) or females engaging in commercial sex was observed since August 2021, involving five women aged 51 to 63. Most of them had offered commercial sex mainly at Yau Tsim Mong District and Sham Shui Po District, while the CHP’s epidemiological investigations, including laboratory analysis, so far have not suggested a common source of infection among these cases. All cases are stable and currently under HIV treatment and care.
Based on its Red Ribbon Centre’s ongoing community programmes, the CHP has enhanced health education, publicity and preventive interventions and stepped up liaisons with NGOs serving FSWs to reinforce testing and counselling services through their network, raise their alertness and promulgate safer sex practices. HIV prevention interventions targeting male clients of FSWs will also be stepped up, including but not limited to provision of mobile HIV testing at places they frequented and free condom distribution.
In addition, enhanced promotion on HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) has been conducted by the DH’s Social Hygiene Service for FSWs and their clients. HIV testing and counselling of FSWs are also enhanced at social hygiene clinics located in different regions. Dr Wong encouraged FSWs and their clients to attend these clinics for screening on HIV/STIs. Additional testing capacity has been enhanced for the emerging needs of the population concerned.
“We would like to appeal to people with a history of unsafe sex to have an HIV antibody test early. They can call the DH’s AIDS Hotline (2780 2211) for a free, anonymous and confidential HIV antibody test. Key populations with a higher risk of infection should undergo regular HIV screening. HIV-positive people should seek specialist care and HIV treatment as soon as possible,” Dr Wong said.
Dr Wong also appealed to members of the public to use condoms consistently and properly in reducing the risk of acquiring HIV.
HIV is the cause of AIDS. Early HIV treatment with antiretroviral drugs effectively prevents progression to AIDS and other complications. Lifelong antiretroviral treatment is indicated for all people with HIV, and the treatment remarkably improves their health and chance of survival. Moreover, infected people who achieve sustained viral suppression to an undetectable level with treatment will not transmit the virus through sex, i.e. Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U).