TAIPEI, June 16 (Xinhua) -- HIV/AIDS is spreading to more younger people in Taiwan, the island health authorities warned at Taiwan HIV Testing Month that kicked off Sunday at Taipei Main Station.
Currently, HIV carriers aged between 15 and 24 account for 19.5 percent of the total number of HIV infections on the island, said Chen Chang-Hsun, a health official in charge of TB, HIV/AIDS control.
He noticed that the prevalence of HIV/AIDS keeps going up on the island since 1984 when the first case of a foreign HIV carrier was reported in Taiwan.
By the end of 2012, 3,771 people died from AIDS, while there are 24,239 living with HIV, of whom 4,716 are young people aged between 15 and 24. Most of them contracted the virus through unsafe sex," Chen said.
More alarmingly, "base on our surveys on those at high-risk from HIV, such as gays, prostitutes and their customers, it's estimated that there are 6,000 to 9,000 people who don't know they may have HIV."
"A most possible reason is that they have internalized stigmatization against themselves due to discrimination against the patients that still persists. They are afraid what would happen to them and their families if they are found infected," Chen said.
If the rate of testing for HIV can reach 90 percent, an estimated total of 50,000 people could be prevented from getting infected in five years, and could save 140 billion New Taiwan dollars (4.67 billion U.S. dollars), according to statistics released by Taiwan health authorities.
The HIV testing campaign is inspired by the U.S. National HIV Testing Day launched on June 27, 1995 by the National Association of People with AIDS. It's an annual campaign to encourage people of all ages to "Take the Test, Take Control."
In response to the growing number of HIV infections, Taiwan AIDS Foundation in collaboration with Taiwan health authorities introduced similar testing campaign to the island in 2007, and made June as HIV Testing Month in 2012.
"HIV testing is a critical first step in taking control and responsibility over one's health, and it can help lower the chances of passing it on to others," said Lin Ting, general secretary of Taiwan AIDS Foundation.
"HIV/AID control is not something you need to do only on the World AID Day. It should be an everyday activity. We only hope the campaign can help the public better understand HIV/AIDS discrimination, and let more people at high risks come out to have the test," said Lin.