SEOUL, Aug. 31 (Korea Bizwire) — The number of South Korean teenagers infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is steadily increasing, with health and education authorities planning to ramp up efforts to better educate young people in a bid to stop the spread of the potentially deadly virus.
Statistics released by the Gyeonggi provincial government and the Korea Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (KCDC) on Thursday show 11,439 people were infected with HIV in South Korea as of the end of last year, with 3,167 of them living in Gyeonggi Province, and teenagers accounted for 0.5 percent.
The figures include everyone affected by HIV, including those who tested positive or carry the virus, as well as AIDS patients.
When broken down by age group, HIV patients in their 40s accounted for 26.8 percent of the total, closely followed by those in their 30s at 21.6 percent.
Previous statistics have shown most of the HIV infections in the country occur among those aged between 20 and 59, who account for over 80 percent of all HIV patients.
However, the number of teenagers infected with the virus began growing notably in recent years, with 36 new teenage HIV cases reported last year alone.
According to health authorities, there are currently some 40 teenage HIV patients in Gyeonggi Province.
The number of teenage HIV patients in the country stayed at a relatively low level, between an annual figure of zero and six until 2003, before infection rates began to increase.
Since then, more and more teenagers infected with HIV have been reported each year, with the number reaching 53 in 2013.
Against this backdrop, government officials in Gyeonggi Province and the KCDC are calling to for additional programs to educate young people on the prevention of the virus.
“Gyeonggi Province is working together with the Korean Association for AIDS Prevention and the Korea Federation for HIV/AIDS Prevention to give HIV prevention education to adolescents, and we are planning on strengthening our education programs,” a government official said.
However, the official also expressed concern over Korean parents’ shy attitude towards HIV education, which makes it difficult for education authorities to do more to address the growing threat of the virus among teenagers.
“Amid the growing number of teenage HIV patients, the KCDC is increasing its effort to work with private organizations to prevent HIV through a number of activities, such as musicals with a theme surrounding the virus,” a KCDC official said.
Ashley Song (firstname.lastname@example.org)