Back grey_arrow_rt.gif
Taiwan to Double Spending on HIV Prevention After Cases Surged
  By Tim Culpan
Nov. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Taiwan will double spending on HIV education next year after new cases of the AIDS-causing virus escalated among injection drug users, a health official said.
Authorities spent NT$140 million ($4.3 million) on HIV prevention last year, about a 10th of the total budget for HIV programs, said Yang Shih-yang, director of AIDS and tuberculosis prevention at Taiwan's Center for Disease Control. Next year public awareness campaigns will get NT$280 million in funding.
New HIV cases last year climbed 124 percent to 3,403 in Taiwan, driven largely by the shared use of infected drug material.
``The fundamental problem is health education,'' Yang told the Taipei Foreign Correspondents' Club on Nov. 10. ``We need to spend more on prevention,'' he said, adding that in 2006, new infections may fall for the first year in more than two decades.
In Taiwan, injection drug use carries the highest risk of HIV infection, researchers there said in a letter published in the April edition of Emerging Infectious Diseases journal. Drug users accounted for more than 60 percent of the 2,499 new cases recorded in the first 10 months of this year, according to data from Taiwan's CDC.
``Drug users start from recreational drugs and move up to intravenous drugs,'' said Arthur Chen, director of the AIDS prevention and research center at Taipei's National Yang Ming University.
Surveys of the prison population and drug users indicate Taiwan's tally of HIV sufferers may be as high as 30,000, almost three times the official number, Chen told the journalists' briefing. Taiwan has 23 million people.
Drug Users `Neglected'
``Our government neglected education targeted at drug users,'' Teresa Hsieh, executive director of Taipei-based AIDS support group Lourdes Association, told the briefing. HIV awareness campaigns have focused more on high-risk sexual behavior, she said.
A survey of female injecting-heroin users in Taiwan found many held misconceptions regarding the modes of HIV transmission and those who didn't perceive themselves susceptible to AIDS rarely used condoms and occasionally shared needles. The study, published in the journal Health Education Research in July 2005, also found respondents considered contracting cancer preferable to having AIDS.
Discrimination, even from some health-care workers, is driving the problem underground and hindering HIV/AIDS sufferers' ability to receive medical treatment, Hsieh said.
``Some hospitals which are not designated for treating AIDS are refusing treatment,'' she said. ``Patients want to tell the doctor that they're HIV positive, but if you tell them you won't get even basic treatment.''
Last month more than 20 HIV-positive residents were forced out of their homes in Taipei after a court ruled that their presence threatened the environmental hygiene of the apartment complex and other residents' psychological well-being.
  icon paper stack View Older Articles   Back to Top