According to UNAids, in 2016, a total of 36.7 million people around the world have been living with the HIV virus. 1.8 million new infections were reported in that year, a decline of almost half of the record-high number seen back in 1997.

Globally, there has been an annual 13% decline in new infections from 2010 to 2016. Furthermore, about 19.5 million of the world’s HIV-infected population now have access to treatment and UN aims for this figure to hit 30 million by 2020.

Asia Pacific: Overall optimistic trend hides alarming increases

The UN has set up its 90-90-90 targets, which emphasize viral suppression among Aids patients. The aim is for 90% of people living with HIV/AIDS knowing their status, 90% of people living with HIV knowing their status and undergoing treatment, as well as 90% of people undergoing treatment to be virally suppressed.

In its report called ‘Ending Aids: Progress Towards the 90-90-90 Targets’, the UN said that in Asia Pacific, as a whole, 71% of people living with HIV know of their status. Not far off, 66% of people living with HIV who know their status are on treatment and a heartening 83% of people on treatment are virally suppressed.

The majority of new HIV infections are seen in the following six Asean countries: Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar and Thailand. These nations, along with India, China, Pakistan and Papua New Guinea, are the 10 countries that together make up more than 95% of all new HIV infections in the region in 2016.

A varying trend is observed across the region. Notably, between 2010 and 2016, there were sharp declines in annual new infections in Thailand with a decrease of 50%. Vietnam and Myanmar also saw a drop of 34% and 26% respectively, in annual new infections. On the other hand, Pakistan is seeing a rise in the number of new infections, with a 39% increase.

More alarmingly, Asia’s fastest growing HIV infection lies within the Philippines, with a 141% increase in the number of new infections. As of end of 2016, some 10,500 Filipinos had been infected with HIV, a spike from 4,300 in 2010. According to the country’s public health surveillance department, two out of three new HIV infections were among 15 to 24-year-old men and they lack the awareness of HIV symptoms and treatment.

HIV situation in Malaysia

Malaysia’s HIV infection rate had declined by half from 2000 to 2009, from 21.8 to 10.9 per 100,000 population. More encouragingly, the number of new infections had been stable for five years, although this edged up slightly in 2010.

While use of drug injections had been the main driving factor for the HIV epidemic in Malaysia, sexual transmission had also been progressively increasing, accounting for almost 80% of new infections.

The country’s Ministry of Health aims to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030, guided by its New National Strategic Plan laid out in 2015. As it adjusts to the changing international environment, Malaysia has adopted the “Ending AIDS” as the goal for it to reach the vision of “Three Zeros”: Zero new infections, Zero discrimination and Zero AIDS related deaths.

HIV situation in Singapore

In Singapore, 2016 data from the country’s Ministry of Health showed that 408 new cases of HIV infections were reported from among Singapore residents, down from 455 in 2015. This brings the total number of HIV-infected Singapore residents to 7,548 as of end 2016.

41% of the cases in 2016 already had late-stage HIV infection when they were diagnosed, close to the 40% of such cases observed in 2015. 40% of the newly-reported cases were also revealed during the course of medical care and 27% were detected as a result from routine HIV screening. To this end, 24% of the cases were discovered from voluntary HIV testing, which are more likely to be at the early stage of infection.

Singapore, along with Cambodia, Botswana, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden and Britain, are the only seven countries worldwide that had achieved UN’s 90-90-90 targets by 2016. 11 more countries and several cities including Amsterdam, Melbourne, New York City and Paris are also nearing this threshold.

UNAids projected that only when other countries worldwide are to fully achieve the 90-90-90 targets, this would then translate to 73% of all people living with HIV being virally suppressed. MIMS

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