An AIDS group expressed concern on Tuesday that despite increasing budgets for AIDS-related issues, the number of new patients each year is showing no sign of decline.
Taiwan AIDS Action said at a press conference that more than 30 percent of the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) annual budget is allocated for medical expenses for AIDS patients, adding that the government needs to work harder to raise AIDS awareness.
The group said that since a 12-year-old boy was reportedly infected with a sexually transmitted disease and since only 2.8 percent of male college students who responded to a recent survey said that they always practice safe sex, the government should take more effective action to stop the disease from spreading among the younger generation.
The group’s spokeswoman, Lin Yi-hui (林宜慧), said the government needs to cooperate across departments and take AIDS-awareness initiatives to school campuses to try to prevent the spread of the disease among young people.
According to an Aug. 5 press release from the CDC, the number of young people infected has been increasing, with patients between the ages of 15 and 24 last year increasing 13.3 percent compared with the previous year.
The statement added that more than 90 percent of them were infected through having sex.
Lin said that overspending on AIDS has been going on since 2007 and that the growth in the number of infected patients causes the annual budget to continue to increase.
Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Shih Wen-yih (施文儀) said AIDS-related issues are supposed to receive 30 percent of the center’s NT$6 billion (US$208.3 million) annual budget, with NT$1.79 billion allocated to AIDS treatment and the rest to AIDS education initiatives. However, Shih said that because the cost of treating AIDS has increased over the years, the medical expenses this year are likely to exceed NT$2.3 billion.
He said that in terms of medical expenses alone, AIDS patients consumed NT$2.25 billion last year, NT$1.89 billion in 2009, NT$1.62 billion in 2008 and NT$1.37 billion in 2007.
Shih said the primary target for the CDC now is to stop the number of newly-infected AIDS patients increasing further.
He said Taiwan is one of only a few countries that provide full coverage for AIDS patients’ medical expenses, adding that there are about 6,000 people on AIDS medication, each of them accounting for about NT$30,000 per month.
The number of registered AIDS patients has grown by 1,129 so far this year, according to CDC tallies. Last year’s increase was 1,176, with a 1,677 rise in 2009.