Knowing about AIDS

Learn about some basic facts about AIDS, precautions you should take and support services provided.

Situations in Hong Kong

The Department of Health has been monitoring the epidemic through the voluntary HIV / AIDS reporting system. Under the system, physicians, laboratories providing confirmatory HIV tests and non-governmental organisations are encouraged to report cases of HIV / AIDS to the Department on a voluntary and anonymous basis.

The first cases of HIV and AIDS were reported in 1984 and 1985 respectively. The current trend shows that while transmission among heterosexuals remains stable, infections among local men who have sex with men (MSM) have been increasing. For the latest statistics about AIDS in Hong Kong, you can check out the website of the Virtual AIDS Office of Hong Kong.

Latest statistics about AIDS in Hong Kong

What is AIDS?

AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. It is caused by a virus called Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). The virus mainly destroys the white blood cells called CD4 T lymphocytes and weakens the body’s immune system. As a result, the body cannot fight off infections and cancers, and may progress to AIDS.

If not properly treated, 50% of those infected with HIV would progress to AIDS within ten years. A patient may contract opportunistic infections, such as tuberculosis and fungal infections, and be at higher risk of death.  Most opportunistic infections can be prevented and treated. However, there is not yet a cure for HIV itself.

How is HIV transmitted?

HIV may be transmitted through the following routes.

  • Sexual contact: The virus is transmitted via the semen, vaginal discharge or blood of the infected partner during sexual contact such as vaginal, oral and anal sex.
  • Blood contact: The virus can be transmitted by contaminated blood, blood products, syringes and needles.
  • Mother to child infection: An infected mother can transmit the virus to her child during pregnancy, delivery or breast-feeding.

However, we cannot get HIV through air or social contact such as:

  • shaking hands;
  • travelling together;
  • eating together;
  • attending school;
  • working;
  • sharing toilet; and
  • swimming, etc.

Therefore, we should feel comfortable to live with people living with HIV / AIDS, accept them and never discriminate against them.

More on routes of transmission of HIV

Who are the high-risk populations?

According to the results of local epidemiological surveillance, the risk of contracting HIV is higher among the following groups of people if they practise unsafe behaviours such as not wearing condom during sexual intercourse or sharing syringes and needles.

  • Men who have sex with men
  • Sex workers and their clients
  • Injecting drug users
  • People with sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

How can I reduce the risk of getting HIV?

  • Use a condom for safer sex. A condom can reduce the risk of contracting HIV and other STIs, especially when you have doubts about your partner’s sexual background.
  • If you are an injecting drug abuser, quit the drug habit. Never share a syringe, needle or other injecting equipment.

How can I get tested?

  • If you suspect you may have contracted HIV, go for HIV antibody testing early. Free testing is provided by the Department of Health’s AIDS Hotlines, Social Hygiene Clinics and methadone clinics.
  • If you are pregnant, request an HIV screening in your antenatal check-up.
Break the needle habit. Methadone does it.AIDS Hotline and HIV TestingList of Social Hygiene Clinics and methadone clinicsMore on HIV antibody test

HIV Preventive and Support Programmes

The Department of Health’s AIDS Hotline provides free HIV antibody testing and individual counselling service.

More on AIDS Hotline 2780 2211Gay Men HIV Testing Hotline 2117 1069

The Red Ribbon Centre was established by the Department of Health to promote community participation in AIDS education and research, organise various health promotion activities and HIV prevention programmes.

More on Red Ribbon Centre

For the caring of HIV patients, the Integrated Treatment Centre specialises in clinical care of ambulatory HIV and AIDS patients, and provides primary prevention to their partners.

More on Integrated Treatment Centre

There are also a number of non-governmental organisations which are currently undertaking community programmes on HIV / AIDS prevention. You can refer to the link below.

AIDS-specific non-governmental organisations
Last revision date: November 2017