Published by my paper / Asiaone (Singapore):
By Joy Fang
YOUNGER people are indulging in same-sex encounters, with about three in four of those aged 16 and under not practising safe sex during their first sexual experience, a recent survey found.
The survey found that an alarming 74 per cent of respondents within that age group did not use a condom, as compared with 36 per cent of those aged between 25 and 30 years old, and 44 per cent for those aged between 21 and 24 years old.
These results were revealed at the inaugural Regional Consultation for Developed Asia on HIV in men-who-have-sex-with-men, or MSM, and transgender people.
The two-day event follows World Aids Day on Wednesday.
The survey also showed an increase in the number of people who have never gone for a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) test - to 41 per cent from 30 per cent last year.
The number of those who have had an HIV test in the past six months has also dipped, from 33 per cent to 26 per cent.
The survey polled more than 13,882 people from 11 countries in Asia, including China and Vietnam.
About 2,000 Singaporeans were surveyed.
Most respondents were aged between 18 and 50, with 80 per cent of the group identifying themselves as homosexual, while another 17.5 per cent comprises bisexuals.
The survey was conducted online over the past two months by gay-lifestyle portal Fridae.com. Its founder, Dr Stuart Koe, expressed concern over the findings.
He said: "This needs to be addressed in our schools' education programmes. We need to target the young early."
This comes in the wake of figures released by the Ministry of Health (MOH), which showed a drop of 7 per cent in the number of people having tests done.
The MOH announced on Monday that 373 more Singaporeans were diagnosed with HIV between January and October this year.
There are currently 4,777 Singaporeans with HIV here.
Mr Steven Lee, 42, who is gay and HIV-positive, told my paper that he was devastated when he was diagnosed a decade ago, after being infected by his long-term partner.
His partner, who was not aware that he had the virus and had not gone for a test, died two years later.
He said: "I think testing for HIV is so important.
People need to know their status so they can plan for their future and avoid hurting the people they love."