PHUKET: Phuket now has the second-highest rate of HIV infection in Thailand, Dr Jessada Chaikhunnarath, Deputy Chief of the Phuket Provincial Health Office, has told the Gazette. Only Chiang Rai has a higher rate. The infection rate in Phuket over the past 12 years was approximately six times the national average. In 1989, the last time national HIV statistics were compared, Phuket had the fourth-highest rate in the country. Since then, the island has recorded around 7,088 new cases of HIV, roughly 16 out of every 1,000 residents of the island. In the past 12 years, 577 have died from the disease. The statistics show, however, that the number of new cases of HIV in Phuket is falling. “Each year, we have averaged about 300 new cases. But last year we had only about 50,” Dr Jessada said. On the other hand, Dr Jessada added that he was concerned about the comparatively high number of pregnant women in Phuket infected with HIV. While in most other provinces less than 1% of reported cases were pregnant women, in Phuket they accounted for 4% of all reported cases. Sex industry workers made up 56.89% of all new cases detected, while 6.89% were fishermen and 5.45% were shop workers. The number of drug addicts who contracted the disease remains unknown. Three quarters of all new cases were male. Nearly 85% of HIV-infected people said they contracted the disease through sex, while 4.61% said they contracted it through drug abuse. National statistics for the same period show that 172,760 new HIV cases were reported (about 2.6 per thousand population), of whom 124,962 were still alive on June 30 this year. A total of 64,913 people were reported as having developed AIDS during the period. Of these, 58,212 were still alive at the close of the period.
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