In the light of international World AIDS Day tomorrow, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday said that it will focus on women in its official anti-AIDS campaign that starts today, and urge condom use in marital sex.
"Over the past years, the glo-bal pandemic has also caught up with married women here," said Lai An-chi (賴安琪), a section chief of the CDC's division for AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
The CDC's figures showed that, a decade ago, only about one to three couples became infected with HIV every year.
During the past decade, however, about 10 couples every year were diagnosed as HIV positive.
According to official statistics, the biggest increase in cases has been among women aged between 20 and 39, and most of them contracted the virus from their husbands.
Since the reporting system was launched in 1988, 163 couples had been monitored. Yet health officials cautioned that this figure could be deceptive.
"The ratio between males and females infected with HIV is roughly 4:1. However, the high known infection rate among males may be partly contributed to screening tests performed in military health checkups," Lai said.
In Taiwan, military service of 20 months is compulsory. In theory, every Taiwanese man undergoes an HIV test at least once upon joining the army.
In the case of women, however, there is no nationwide screening test. Only Taipei City and Taoyuan County provide free HIV screening tests for pregnant women.
Many HIV-infected women may thus escape notice.
Health officials urged women to be more alert in guarding themselves against the disease.
"Women are more physically susceptible to HIV infection than men," Lai said.
Citing the latest WHO report, Lai said that male-to-female HIV transmission during sex is about twice as likely to occur than female-to-male transmission.
The underlying problem, health officials said, is the low level of AIDS awareness among married couples.