ST Aug 17, 2006
Rise in sex infections hastens need to educate the young
Threefold increase in cases among those aged 10-19; over 40 have HIV
SINGAPORE youths continue to be vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), with more than 40 Singaporeans aged 19 and below being diagnosed HIV-positive by the end of last year.
Over the last 20 years, more than 470 people have tested positive for HIV - the virus that causes Aids - when they were in the 20 to 29 age group.
And with a threefold increase in STIs such as gonorrhoea, genital herpes and warts between 2002 and 2004 among those aged 10 to 19, it has become even more urgent to step up HIV/Aids awareness efforts among youths here.
Okay .... based on the above, answer this simple question - how many Singapore youths were diagnosed with HIV last year?
When you're ready, scroll down.
Your answer was probably this - "More than 40 Singaporean youths were diagnosed with HIV last year." Furthermore, they were all naughty teenagers screwing around and in need of "education". Right?
Surprise, surprise. Actually, last year, only seven Singaporeans aged 19 and below were diagnosed to be HIV-positive. Out of those 7, three were babies born with HIV.
Why then did the ST say that "more than 40" Singaporeans in the 0-19 years category were diagnosed with HIV? To be more precise, there were 46 such Singaporeans. 25 of them were babies born HIV-positive. The other 21 were teenagers (in the 10-19 year category). What the ST didn't mention is that this is over a 20-year period (1985 to 2005).
So on average, over 20 years, about just one teenager is diagnosed to be HIV-positive each year.
The ST then mentions that over the past 20 years, more than 470 Singaporeans were diagnosed to be HIV-positive when they were between 20 and 29 years old. But this doesn't demonstrate any "rise in sex infections" in that age group. It's just a total figure which in itself reveals no trend (upward or downward) over the 20 years. Thus the figure in no way justifies the exciting title "Rise in sex infections hastens need to educate the young".
Especially when the education efforts that the article mentions are mainly for secondary school kids ... and not Singaporeans in the 20-29 age group.
Anyway, back to the "more than 470" figure for that age group. In the same 20-year period, 912 Singaporeans aged between 30 and 39 were found to be HIV-positive. 668 Singaporeans aged between 40 and 49 were found to be HIV-positive.
912 and 668 are both much bigger numbers than 470. So contrary to what the ST claims, it isn't at all obvious that AIDS is a more "urgent" problem among the youth, as opposed to those in their 30s or 40s.
My statistics on HIV are from the Ministry of Health.
As for the ST's third paragraph (regarding other STIs), I do not know what their source is. But are you still inclined to accept at face value anything that the ST says in this article? If so, you must be a fool. The article has little bits of manipulation all over the place. I'll just point out one last bit.
Last year, about seven in 10 secondary schools - totalling almost 43,000 students - took up the Health Promotion Board's STI/HIV programme.Here's the last bit of ST manipulation I want to point out:
Close to 50 schools from secondary to tertiary level have joined Standard Chartered
Bank's 'Be Aware, Be Safe' programme since its 2004 launch.
Students who have taken part in these programmes say they have helped to dispel many myths about HIV/Aids.
Said Temasek Secondary School student Tan Wei Sheng, 15: 'I used to believe that sharing a drink with someone with HIV/Aids would infect me too. I know better now.'
Describing the rising trend of STI cases among youths here as 'alarming', Senior Minister of State (Information, Communications and the Arts and Foreign Affairs) Balaji Sadasivan said students need 'comprehensive, accurate information about HIV/Aids and how to protect themselves'.
At Temasek Secondary School yesterday, where Standard Chartered Singapore celebrated having reached out to 20,000 students here, the bank's chief executive Lim Cheng Teck reiterated its determination to drive the cause forward."Half of all people with HIV are infected before they are 25" ....?
'We must remove the stigma of HIV, to increase empathy for the HIV community, increase awareness and change lives,' he said.
With around half of all people with HIV infected before they are 25, 'HIV infection can be prevented if the young are better informed and knowledgeable about the disease', he added.
Hmmm, how could this possibly be correct? From figures mentioned earlier, we already know that:
1. 473 + 46 = 519 Singaporeans were diagnosed to be HIV-positive while they were below 29 years of age; and
2. A much larger number of Singaporeans (912 + 668 = 1580) were diagnosed to be HIV-positive in the 30-49 age group.
Thus a total of 519 + 1580 = 2099 Singaporeans were diagnosed before reaching the age of 50. Without even taking into account the infection rate among older Singaporeans (in their 50s, 60s, 70s ...), we note that 519 is already less than 25% of 2094. So it seems completely wrong to say that 50% of new infections happen to Singaporeans before they turn 25.
Another blunder by the ST? Seems that way. Wait, this time the ST has attributed the statement to Lim Cheng Teck, CEO of Standard Chartered Bank. Is Mr Lim the one who's talking nonsense then? I don't think so. Mr Lim was talking about Stanchart's AIDS awareness programme and he must have been citing the same figures found on Stanchart's HIV web page. The page cites a study which suggests that indeed, about half (50%) of new HIV infections happen between the ages of 15-24. Stanchart goes on to say that this is the age-group on which it wants to focus its awareness efforts.
What the ST conveniently forgot to tell you is that this study was a global one done by the United Nations. It is not just about Singapore alone. And Mr Lim wasn't talking just about Stanchart's AIDS awareness programme in Singapore - he was talking about Stanchart's AIDS awareness programme worldwide (spanning 50 countries). Hence he mentioned the UN study.
The ST had decided to quote Mr Lim and omit the proper context, so that the article would look more exciting. 50% of new infections afflicting ... YOUNG ..... Singaporeans! Urgent need to save them! That is the impression which the ST wants to give you. Mischevious, aren't they.
Technorati: Singapore; health; AIDS.