AIDS hits Taiwan’s youth as they have more sex, younger

TAIPEI, Taiwan, The China Post Staff

AIDS — Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome — is becoming increasingly widespread among Taiwan’s youth, in line with similar global trends.

Currently youth represent 20 percent of Taiwan’s AIDS sufferers. One thousand, three hundred and ten 15 to 24-year-olds had the disease by the end of June this year in Taiwan, with 1152 of them Taiwan citizens. The Department of Health (DOH) has been concerned enough to propose that sex education and AIDS awareness be taught to young Taiwanese children in fifth grade at primary school.

According to statistics from the DOH’s Center for Disease Control (CDC), the world’s AIDS sufferers numbered 40 million by the end of last year, among which 118 million were aged 15 to 24-years-old. Half of the world’s people infected with AIDS for the first time last year were aged 15 to 24-years-old, which statistically interpreted, can mean an average 6000 people in this age group are infected with AIDS each day or one youth is infected with AIDS every 14 seconds. Health officials said this could only be the tip of the iceberg and many more of the world’s people could be infected as the statistics only represented people officially diagnosed with the fatal disease. Many more people could be unknowing carriers of HIV, the officials said. The youngest person to be infected with the AIDS virus in Taiwan was 15, according to the CDC statistics.

Young girls are more like to be infected with the AIDS virus than young men in developing countries as the poverty in these nations forces many young women into the sex trade. Talking about sex in these countries more often than not is taboo, making these girls ignorant of how to protect themselves from catching AIDS, such as using condoms.

Although Taiwan is no longer a developing country, statistically the trends are the same.

Health officials believe this is for a different reason.

Young Taiwanese are becoming increasingly open about sex. The average age that Taiwanese experience sex for the first time is getting younger and younger. Many of Taiwan’s teenagers will not use condoms the first time they have sex. Health officials also said young drug users in Taiwan were at high risk of catching the fatal virus as intoxication caused by drugs could infect their judgment. The same officials said the rate of AIDS for young girls had not changed much but there had been a marked increase in the rate of AIDS in teenage boys and young men, making an overall rise in the prevalence of HIV carriers in this age group.

Taiwanese boys first have sex at an average age of 15.97-years-old whereas girls first have intercourse on average at 16.15-years-old, according to DOH statistics. The same statistics revealed only 38.2 percent of boys would use condoms the first time they had sex while 42 percent of girls would ask boys to use condoms in their first sexual experience. An official with the CDC in charge of managing the AIDS virus in Taiwan, Lai An-chi, said statistically on average 4.91 young people out of every 100,000 15 to 24-year-olds were infected with the AIDS virus. However, each age category on average saw 3.76 people in 100,000 infected with AIDS, making the incidence of AIDS in Taiwan’s youth significantly higher. A further 25.95 youths in 100,000 young people were HIV positive, contrasting with an average of 19.1 for each age category. Meanwhile, the government is doing all it can to fight the spread of the fatal virus.

The Sexually Transmitted Diseases Clinic in Taipei has adopted a strategy of inviting an experienced older legal prostitute to teach younger prostitutes about AIDS and how to ask clients to wear condoms.

The clinic, which operates in a red-light area in Taipei, reported a drop in sexually transmitted diseases of at least 10 percent for prostitutes who were under the guidance of the older prostitute compared to prostitutes who were not part of the program after the strategy was adopted three years ago.

Doctors in the clinic are recommending that other towns and counties also try this method of disease prevention.