Two newborn children who contracted HIV from their mothers were among 146 infections recorded in Hong Kong in the first four months of the year, the city's disease watchdog said on Tuesday.
Dr Kenny Chan Chi-wai, a preventive medicine consultant at the Centre for Health Protection, said he believed the mothers were infected during pregnancy through sex and passed the virus to their infants during childbirth or from breastfeeding.
Chan said the mothers had not tested positive for the virus in their initial medical screenings during pregnancy.
The two infant infections are the second and third perinatal transmissions reported to the centre since a case in 2015.
Children infected with HIV can receive antiretroviral therapy, which is highly effective in prolonged suppression of the virus.
Pregnant woman are reminded to take prenatal HIV antibody tests as soon as possibleDr Kenny Chan, a consultant for the Centre for Health Protection
"Pregnant woman are reminded to take prenatal HIV antibody tests as soon as possible," Chan said, as he announced the centre's latest report on Tuesday.
"Even if they are not infected, pregnant women should continue to take measures to prevent HIV infections, such as the correct use of condoms during sex."
Drug treatments can also reduce the chance of mother-to-child transmissions, according to the centre.
The centre's report showed young men as most susceptible to HIV, with most of the cases in this demographic coming from homosexual sex.
Of the 146 reported cases, 128 were men and 18 were women. There have been 9,861 HIV infections in Hong Kong since 1984.
The report found that 71 infections in the first quarter of 2019 were transmitted through homosexual contact, 17 via heterosexual contact, and two cases from drug use.
Half of the victims had reportedly sought treatment from HIV support services at the Department of Health or the Hospital Authority.
There were also 22 new cases of Aids - the often fatal result of HIV - reported in the first quarter of the year. Since 1985, when records started, there have been 2,018 cases of Aids in the city.
Without treatment, about half of HIV-infected people will progress to Aids within 10 yearsDr Kenny Chan, a consultant for the Centre for Health Protection
The most common symptom of Aids in the new cases was pneumocystis pneumonia, a chest infection caused by fungus. Although there is no cure for HIV, the chronic disease can be treated, according to Aids Concern, a local medical charity founded in 1990.
Cocktail therapy, a combination of drugs that fight the virus, has been proscribed in Hong Kong since 1996. The medication can increase the life expectancy of people living with HIV, and many live normal lives. Aids Concern said there are about 20 types of anti-HIV drugs now in use in Hong Kong. Chan stressed the importance of using condoms correctly and consistently.
"HIV is the cause of Aids. Without treatment, about half of HIV-infected people will progress to Aids within 10 years. On the contrary, HIV treatment prevents Aids and significantly prolongs survival," Chan said.
"Members of the public with a history of unsafe sex should take an HIV test right away."
He urged residents to call the Department of Health Aids Hotline (2780 2211) for a free, anonymous and confidential HIV test.
Chan said anyone found to be HIV-positive should seek specialist care as soon as possible.
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