In South Korea the first case of HIV/AIDS was reported in 1985; numbers have increased since then, with drastic increases from 2000. The cumulative total number of cases of HIV/AIDS up to the end of 2007 was 5,323. In all the reported cases, the main mode of transmission has been sexual contact between MSM or between heterosexuals. The cases of IDUs are very few and this situation is different from other East Asian countries. Among men, the number of infections by heterosexual sexual behaviour exceeds that of MSM. It is thought that the number of MSM is underestimated because of social discrimination and prejudice against homosexuality in Korean society (on gender relations in South Korea, see Choi in this volume).

The number of people undergoing HIV testing is increasing year by year and in 2007 about 7,400,000 had tests at hospitals, public health centres and blood banks, with 70 per cent of tests conducted at hospitals. The rate of infection has tended to decrease since 2005 and it is under 0.05 per cent among those who were tested at public health centres. As the rates of testing increased, after 2000 sixty per cent of those who tested HIV positive were discovered at hospitals. Twenty per cent of those who had been found HIV positive at hospitals would die within two years, meaning that in most cases there had been a long time lag between infection and identification of HIV status. There is a need to establish and extend the testing system so that people can learn their HIV status at an earlier stage.

The prominent trend of HIV infection in Korea is a male: female ratio of 9:1 among those infected. Most cases are from sexual contact; and in 2004 data, infection by sexual contact was 98.1 per cent of the total. As for the age of People with AIDS/ People with HIV (PwA/PwH), 83 per cent are in the age group of twenties to forties.