Twenty gay men in Hong Kong gave each other HIV after meeting on the internet and deciding to spread the virus between themselves, according to health officials.

The South China Morning Post revealed that Government health officials found all 20, who met between November 2003 and November 2005, had HIV with similar gene sequencing.

Officials made the discovery when all the men sought medical help after contracting HIV by having unprotected sex with multiple partners they met through the Internet.

The revelation coincides with Hong Kong’s highest ever annual number of HIV cases in 2005. A total of 313 new HIV cases were reported to the territory’s Department of Health in 2005, 17 percent more than the 268 cases reported in 2004, health officials said.

One third of the cases involved heterosexual exposure to the virus, while just under one third came through homosexual or bisexual contact.

According to the Department of Health, the total number of HIV cases in Hong Kong, which has a population of 6.8 million, is now 2,835 since 1984.