TOKYO, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- The number of people in Japan newly infected with the HIV virus and those contracting AIDS reached an all-time high of 1,545, Japan's health ministry reported.
Of the 1,113 people diagnosed as newly positive with the human immunodeficiency virus in 2008 and 432 diagnosed with AIDS, 1,442 were male, the ministry's AIDS Trend Committee report said.
HIV can lead to AIDS, a condition in which the immune system begins to fail, leading to life-threatening opportunistic infections.
''An increasing number of people are getting infected as a result of male-to-male sexual contact and the age range is widening,'' said committee Chairman Dr. Aikichi Iwamoto, an authority on infectious diseases.
The report said 964 people, or 62 percent, were infected through same-sex contact last year, while 365 became infected through heterosexual contact and 10 through sharing drug needles, Kyodo News reported.
Of the HIV-positive and AIDS patients, those in their 30s accounted for 559 people, or 36 percent, while 377 were in their 20s, the ministry report said.
People in their 50s accounted for 283 patients, an increase of 50 people from the previous year, the report said.