DOH warns on rise in HIV cases

IN THE DARK::The department said many young people may not be aware of screening services, adding that those with HIV were often afraid to tell their parents or teachers

Staff writer, with CNA

Fri, Jun 07, 2013 - Page 3

AIDS claimed the lives of seven people aged 15 to 24 last year, making it the country’s No. 10 cause of death in this age bracket, the Department of Health (DOH) said yesterday.

It marks the first time AIDS has made the top 10 list of causes of death among young Taiwanese, the department said.

A total of 1,340 people in the 15-to-24 age group died last year, with accidents being the No. 1 killer, accounting for 46.1 percent of deaths, the department’s statistics showed.

Suicide ranked second, accounting for 14.6 percent of fatalities among young people. However, suicide posted the largest increase in the number of fatalities, while the figure for accident-related deaths declined.

Of the seven young people who died from AIDS last year, four were reported as being HIV positive in that year, while the remaining three reported their infection in 2011.

“The figure might be a result of these people delaying reporting of their infections and a subsequent delay in receiving treatment,” said Lo Yi-chun, an epidemic prevention specialist at the department.

The seven deaths could be the tip of an iceberg of a rapid increase in the number of young people with HIV, Lo added.

According to the department’s statistics, 635 of the 2,224 HIV infections confirmed last year were in the 15-to-24 age group, which outpaced all other age brackets in terms of the HIV growth rate.

Lo also attributed the high HIV mortality in the age group mainly to the fact that many young people are not aware that they can access anonymous screening services, and are afraid of informing their parents and teachers of their infection.

As part of the health department’s efforts to help young people at risk of HIV infection get tested, grassroots health offices in cities and counties have set up special task forces to offer assistance on a case-by-case basis, Lo added.

Meanwhile, the department said that cancer remained the nation’s top killer last year, claiming one life every 12 minutes, 2 seconds.

It is the 31st consecutive year that cancer has been at the top of the list of the country’s 10 major causes of death, it said.

Various types of cancer claimed 43,665 lives in the nation last year — an average of 120 people per day — according to the agency’s statistics.

Cancer mortality accounted for 28.4 percent of all deaths in Taiwan last year, or 131.3 deaths per 100,000 of the population, which marked a 0.7 percent decline from 2011’s level, it said.

Cancer fatalities hit a high in 1997, when the standardized death rate reached 144.3 per 100,000 people, but the ratio has since been on a steady decline.

Lung cancer topped the list, followed by liver, colorectal, breast, oral, stomach, prostate, pancreatic, esophageal and cervical cancers, in that order, the department said, adding that the most recent rankings remained the same as in 2011.

Nevertheless, the mortality rate of oral cancer has risen by 15.8 percent since 2001, while cervical cancer’s fatality rate posted the steepest fall of 54.6 percent during the same period, the department said.