Date
16 December 2017
HIV testing should be included as part of periodical check-ups. Early diagnosis of HIV leads to longer life expectancy of patients, according to studies. Photo: AFP
HIV testing should be included as part of periodical check-ups. Early diagnosis of HIV leads to longer life expectancy of patients, according to studies. Photo: AFP

Put HIV testing in your standard check-up routine

Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is the final stage of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. Perhaps the most well known is the fact that there is still no cure for AIDS.

Since the confirmation of the first HIV infection in 1984, the total number of reported HIV infections in Hong Kong had reached 8,612 as of March 31, 2017.

Although the rate of HIV infection in the city is relatively low, it is not something that is none of our business.

While having a check-up is probably an annual ritual by many Hongkongers, an HIV test is not quite a popular item that would be included in a regular health check-up.

The reason: people in general do not think they could be in any danger of contracting AIDS and they would try their best to steer clear of the disease.

The main mode of transmission of HIV is through sexual contact. Some people fall for the myth that condoms are not required when making love with a regular sex partner.

However, the definition of a regular sex partner could vary from one individual to the next. A regular partner could be understood as one who stays with you for the rest of their life or someone who survives a relationship with you longer than a month.

Anyway, imagine your regular sex partner had unprotected sex and one of his or her ex-partners was HIV positive. Your partner could then be infected and so would you. Having a regular sex partner does not mean you have no risk of HIV infection.

While it is vitally important to have safe sex, many Hong Kong people think wearing condoms merely serves the ends of contraception.

If wearing a condom is primarily intended for contraceptive purposes, does it mean that it would not be necessary to use a condom when having sex with a menopausal woman? Or since pregnancy would never be a concern between homosexual couples, does it justify the fact that they could skip using condoms? The answers are obviously “no”.

Condoms are necessary because their primary function is to protect you and your partner by reducing the risks of HIV infection and reventing other sexually transmitted diseases through semen, vaginal fluid or blood.

AIDS has been highly stigmatized and people generally have tied it to casual sex partners, homosexuals, or drug addicts.

That said, people, even high-risk individuals, prefer not to take HIV tests. As a matter of fact, with the successful combination of antiretroviral therapy, popularly known as cocktail therapy, the average life expectancy of HIV patients has markedly increased. The quality of life of HIV patients could be more or less the same as most people’s as long as early diagnosis and intervention are taken.

Given that results of HIV antibody tests are confidential, citizens should not be afraid to take the test. Incorporating it as part of the regular health check-up is the best policy for you and your partner.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 3

Translation by John Chui with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

– Contact us at [email protected]

JC/FC/RA

Chief Executive of Hong Kong AIDS Foundation

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