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LCQ19: Prevention of AIDS
     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Hak-kan and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, in the Legislative Council today (June 21):


     It has been reported that the Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health received a total of 202 new cases of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection in the first quarter of this year, hitting a record high for a single quarter since records were first kept in 1984. Some doctors have pointed out that the increase in the number of infections is related to public ignorance of the risks of unsafe sex. Moreover, there is a downward trend in the age of people who have been infected with HIV, with those of them who are younger being less inclined to receive treatment than those who are older, which is a worrying situation. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the details of the publicity work undertaken by the authorities and relevant organisations on prevention of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in each of the past three years;

(2) whether it has studied the reasons why those people infected with HIV who are younger are less inclined to receive treatment than those who are older, and of the plans it has to encourage the former to receive treatment;

(3) given the downward trend in the age of people who have been infected with HIV, whether the authorities have reviewed the effectiveness of the publicity and education work currently conducted in schools; if so, of the details; and

(4) whether it has plans to allocate additional resources and adopt new approaches to promote the prevention of AIDS; if so, of the details; if not, whether it will formulate such plans?



(1) The publicity on the prevention of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is mainly carried out by the Red Ribbon Centre (RRC) under the Special Preventive Programme of the Department of Health (DH). For public education, the RRC holds the World AIDS Campaign in collaboration with different non-governmental organisations (NGOs) every year to promote public awareness and prevention of AIDS through education and publicity activities conducted in different locations and via various media channels. In recent years, the DH has organised talks on AIDS for high-risk groups, including men who have sex with men (MSM), injecting drug users and ethnic minorities, and distributed appropriate publicity materials to them taking into account their cultures and languages. Among others, the RRC carries out publicity and education on the prevention of AIDS among the MSM community every year through platforms such as the Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival and the Hong Kong Pride Parade.

     The number of MSM aged 29 or below who are infected by Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is on the rise in recent years. In view of their low awareness of safe sex and low HIV testing rate as well as the high prevalence of drug abuse among them, the RRC launched a new Announcement in the Public Interest and a series of three short films on the Internet in 2015 to disseminate in the gay community messages on safe sex, early HIV testing and avoidance of drugs. In response to the rapid changes in the HIV epidemic, the DH has carried out intensive publicity work. For example, the Be Negative Campaign was launched in 2014 to promote the awareness of male homosexuals to prevent the co-infection of hepatitis C and HIV through distribution of posters and publicity materials by NGOs on AIDS and at gay venues. A dedicated website was also set up for the purpose. With an increase in the number of hepatitis A cases among HIV-infected male homosexuals, the DH held a press briefing in February this year and appealed to MSM for early vaccination through NGOs on AIDS, the gay community and their social networking mobile applications (apps).

     Moreover, the Government has set up the AIDS Trust Fund (the Fund) to provide funding support for community organisations (including NGOs on AIDS) to implement AIDS prevention programmes targeting different high-risk groups with a view to reducing HIV transmission. For example, for MSM, the Fund has provided funding support for a number of NGOs on AIDS to organise outreach activities, including carrying out publicity and education work at venues frequented by gay. Online outreach services (including those provided through online chat rooms and mobile apps) have also been launched in recent years to extend the coverage of prevention and education to younger MSM. Besides, some NGOs on AIDS have been funded in recent years to provide mobile HIV testing service by appointment, making it more convenient for younger MSM to receive testing at locations close to their residence. To encourage mutual support among younger MSM, the Fund has provided funding for some NGOs on AIDS to set up support groups to provide AIDS education and counselling services as well as referrals for treatment at drug treatment and rehabilitation agencies.

     Regarding sex workers, the Fund has provided funding support for some NGOs on AIDS to carry out publicity and education work at one-woman brothels, workplaces of sex workers and other venues, and provide HIV testing service. In recent years, some NGOs on AIDS have been funded to provide AIDS prevention education via the Internet for females engaged in compensated dating to enhance their awareness of safe sex. The NGOs also carry out AIDS prevention education activities at places frequented by other high-risk groups.

(2) At present, there is no systematic study in Hong Kong on the reasons why people living with HIV (PLHIV) refuse to seek doctors' advice and receive medical treatment. Nevertheless, an in-house survey conducted by the DH finds that the most common reasons for patients not taking medication on time include: forgot to take medicine (48 per cent), overslept and missed the scheduled dosing time (23 per cent), too busy (18 per cent), and living habits changed (17 per cent). According to the survey of the DH, the dropout rate of patients who have started receiving treatment is less than 3 per cent every year.

     The Government will, based on the recommendations in the Recommended HIV/AIDS Strategies for Hong Kong (2017-2021) issued by the Hong Kong Advisory Council on AIDS (ACA), provide counselling service for PLHIV (especially young and newly diagnosed persons) through multi-specialist and disciplinary teams under multi-modal integrated plans to cater for their physical, mental and social needs, with a view to supporting their compliance with the treatment plans through enhanced counselling, identifying the reasons affecting their compliance and addressing the problems. In addition, it is necessary to strengthen public education and encourage community participation and acceptance, so as to increase the number of PLHIV seeking doctors' advice and receiving medical treatment.

(3) In 2014 and 2016, the RRC collaborated with the Family Planning Association of Hong Kong to provide life skills-based sex and HIV/AIDS education, including practical skills in using condoms, in secondary schools. Tests performed afterwards showed that students had gain more knowledge of sex and AIDS. Moreover, the RRC has organised film sharing sessions in universities every year since 2015, and held discussions on topics related to AIDS prevention with university students and teachers. Questionnaire surveys were conducted afterwards to evaluate the effectiveness of the sharing sessions.

     Furthermore, the Student Health Service (SHS) of the DH provides sex educational information and conducts promotion campaigns for primary and secondary students. Promotion work include puberty talks in student health service centres, interactive activities of the sex education series conducted in schools under the Adolescent Health Programme, online sex education information, etc. The SHS will continue to promote sex education and regularly review and update the contents and methods used to meet the needs of the adolescents.

(4) In April 1993, the Finance Committee (FC) of the Legislative Council approved a provision of $350 million for the establishment of the Fund to provide assistance for HIV-infected haemophiliacs, strengthen medical and support services, and enhance the awareness of HIV/AIDS prevention among the high-risk groups and the public. An additional injection of $350 million was approved by the FC in 2013-14 to continue supporting applications under the Fund. To allocate resources more effectively, higher funding priorities will be accorded to projects meeting the following criteria:

1. projects targeting at high-risk groups;
2. projects that have monitoring and evaluation effects;
3. projects that encourage co-operation among social groups and strengthen co-operation among organisations;
4. projects with evidence-based prevention and control measures; and
5. projects that can have in-depth contact with high-risk groups and involve intervention to their high-risk acts.

     The ACA published the Recommended HIV/AIDS Strategies for Hong Kong (2017-2021) in May this year, which sets out the priority areas for action and further elaborates areas to be strengthened, areas for further examination and current response that should be maintained. The Government will, according to the recommended strategies, encourage the Fund's applicants to use innovative methods (including digital technology) and new delivery modes to enhance the success rate of their contact with high-risk groups and step up prevention against HIV/AIDS.
Ends/Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Issued at HKT 16:30
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