The third annual amfAR Gala Hong Kong was held on March 25. In conjunction with the event, the TREAT Asia Report took the opportunity to look at the current state of Hong Kong’s HIV epidemic.
Dr. Man-Po Lee leads a panel discussion at the TREAT Asia Network Annual Meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, October 2016. Hong Kong has seen a steady increase in new HIV infections in recent years, with a record high of 725 new infections reported in 2015.
“Today in Hong Kong, the vast majority of new HIV infections are transmitted through sexual contact, and to a large degree, through homosexual or bisexual contact. About 87% of new infections occur in men. In earlier years of the epidemic in Hong Kong, more people were infected through heterosexual contact,” said Dr. Man-Po Lee, head of AIDS Clinical Services at Queen Elizabeth Hospital and TREAT Asia site Principal Investigator. Dr. Lee recently served as chair of the TREAT Asia HIV Observational Database (TAHOD), a study that gathers and analyses regional data in order to better understand epidemic trends and inform HIV treatment.
At a press conference in February 2017, Dr. Kenny Chan of the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Hong Kong Department of Health reported that of the 692 newly reported cases in 2016, 424 acquired the infection by homosexual or bisexual contact. Smaller numbers acquired HIV through heterosexual contact, injecting drug use, or unknown transmission routes.
“There has also been a recent doubling of new HIV infections among young people aged 10−19,” Dr. Lee said. “This increase reflects a troubling trend that is occurring throughout much of Asia.”
At the amfAR Gala Hong Kong 2017, left to right: amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost; actor and philanthropist Jackie Chan; businesswoman, philanthropist, and amfAR Award of Courage recipient Pansy Ho; and amfAR Chairman of the Board Kenneth Cole.
The Department of Health continues to recommend condoms for safer sex, early and consistent HIV testing for at-risk populations as well as pregnant women, and treatment initiation at diagnosis. It also encourages methadone treatment for injecting drug users, although injecting drug use has diminished over the past 10 years as a route of HIV transmission.
Of those diagnosed with HIV in the last quarter of the year, 60% have already begun treatment. However, late diagnosis remains a significant problem, which further increases the risk of co-infections due to weakened immune systems.