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Reuters New Media
Hong Kong HIV Patients Hide Disease From Families

November 30, 2000
HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong HIV/AIDS patients hide their conditions from their families, partners or spouses as long as they can, a survey this week showed.

The study released by Chinese University of Hong Kong ahead of Friday's World AIDS Day found that less than 10 percent of HIV/AIDS sufferers disclose their status to their families.

While 55 percent of the 289 people with HIV/AIDS interviewed are sexually active, many keep their partners in the dark.

A quarter of married respondents hide their infection or illness from their spouses while three quarters of those who co-habit say nothing to their partners.

But doctors said this does not necessarily put others at risk.

"It is fine for them to be sexually active provided they are engaged in protected sex," a consultant to the government's AIDS' unit, Dr Lee Shui-shan, told Reuters by telephone.

One hundred and thirty-two people were tested positive with HIV and 54 were confirmed to have AIDS during the first three quarters of this year, according to the latest government figures.

HIV is the virus that leads to AIDS.

HIV prevalence in Hong Kong, with a total of 1,491 reported HIV infections and 487 confirmed AIDS cases, fares relatively well compared with the rest of Asia.

Hong Kong, with about seven million people, has more than double the population of Singapore but has half the number of HIV/AIDS patients than the city state.

Singapore was ranked 10th by the United Nations among Asia-Pacific countries for HIV prevalence in 1999.

Cambodia came top of the list with 210,000 reported HIV/AIDS cases, followed by Thailand with 740,000 and Myanmar third with 510,000.

In Hong Kong, discrimination remains the biggest hurdle for HIV patients to be honest with others about their health, the latest survey showed.

A noticeable proportion felt marginalised by family members and others felt discriminated because of the media's negative portrayal, the report said.

Universal HIV screening is in the pipeline for pregnant women in Hong Kong. The scheme is likely to be introduced by next year.



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