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HIV spread at record levels in Korea


Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is spreading at a record rate in South Korea, with homosexual contact accounting for a growing share of new infections, the Korea Centers for Disease Control reported Tuesday.

Among the HIV cases confirmed to have originated from sexual contact last year, more than half of the cases were attributed to homosexual contact.

A total of 1,222 cases HIV or acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) patients in the country – 1,005 South Koreans and 217 non-Koreans -- were reported to the health authorities last year, up 1.3 percent from 2018, marking the largest ever annual total since the government started counting in 1985.

Nine out of 10 new patients were men.

Those in their 20s (35.8 percent) and 30s (27.9 percent) accounted for 63.7 percent of the total.

Among the 1,005 South Koreans with HIV or AIDS, 81.7 percent said they thought they were infected through sexual contacts.

For the first time in South Korea, more infections were attributed to homosexual contact (53.8 percent) than heterosexual contact (46.2 percent), based on patients’ accounts.

Although HIV causes AIDS, not all HIV infectees are AIDS patients.

HIV is spread primarily by unprotected sex, contaminated blood transfusions, sharing hypodermic needles and from mother to child during pregnancy, delivery of breastfeeding. Saliva, sweat and tears do not transmit the virus.

By Kim So-hyun (