amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

News Briefs

July 2006


Hong Kong
HIV infections have risen to record levels in Hong Kong, registering a 17 percent increase in 2005 over the previous year. According to the city’s department of health, sexual contact remains the major route of transmission, accounting for around 64 percent of new cases, with the largest increase in new cases occurring among men who have sex with men. According to UNAIDS in 2004, Hong Kong’s adult HIV prevalence was 0.1 percent. (, 14/2/06; UNAIDS)

Mandatory HIV testing before marriage may soon be required in the western state of Goa, an act that would make Goa the first Indian region to implement such a law. On 17 March, the Goan government announced plans to ask that the state assembly amend the Goa Public Health Act to require couples registering for marriage to be screened for the virus. The terms of the revised act would allow couples to marry even if one or both are HIV positive, and it would also allow couples to opt out of testing. But the plan has met with a chorus of opposition from such organizations as the Goa State AIDS Control Society, a subsidiary of the Indian government’s National AIDS Control Organization, the UNAIDS program in India, and a vocal group of Indian NGOs. If passed, Goa’s mandatory testing will run counter to India’s national AIDS policy, which encourages voluntary testing. Currently more than 5 million people in India are estimated to be infected with HIV, with at least 90 percent unaware of their status, according to UNAIDS. (Economic Times, 17/3/06; Financial Times, 27/3/06)

The rate of HIV infection in southern India among people aged 15 to 24 has dropped by roughly 35 percent, according to a study published 30 March in The Lancet. This striking decline in prevalence in the worst hit region in India is the result, researchers believe, of successful prevention efforts aimed at commercial sex workers and their clients. Indeed, condom use among sex workers has increased by 70 percent since HIV awareness campaigns were introduced, according to one of the study’s authors. Prevalence rates in the four southern states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra—which together account for about 75 percent of all of India’s HIV infections—dropped from 1.7 percent in 2000 to 1.1 percent in 2004. The study found no significant decrease in the northern Indian states, where the epidemic is driven primarily by injecting drug use. (AP/Globe and Mail, 30/3/06)

Papua New Guinea
The government of Papua New Guinea has for the first time publicly called for “one hundred percent condom use” and has urged Christian churches and other religious organizations to move beyond their “religious and moral biases” to support the new condom program. Dr. Puka Temu, minister assisting the prime minister on HIV/AIDS, spoke at the National HIV Prevention Summit about the necessity of implementing widespread condom use in a country with an HIV/AIDS prevalence rate of 1.7 percent. At the same summit, a new study was submitted showing that children in Papua New Guinea as young as eight years old have had sexual intercourse and that large numbers of young people begin having sex between the ages of 11 and 15, many without using condoms. (Post-Courier Online, 12/3/06)

Under the aegis of a new campaign called Sex Alert, the Thai government has launched its first HIV/AIDS prevention program aimed at men who have sex with men (MSM). Sex Alert will use a variety of media to present educational materials on safer sex and HIV, and will provide condoms and lubricant. (11/2/06, Medical News Today) Until recently, MSM have been largely overlooked by Thailand’s national HIV prevention efforts, but prevalence rates among MSM have begun to rise. Recent studies have suggested that Thailand’s efforts to combat HIV/AIDS on a broader level have also begun to falter; in response, the government announced plans to cut new infections by half over the next three years. (Yahoo! News, 14/2/06)