The fight against HIV/AIDS remains a formidable challenge. Positive cases have increased over the years.
Forty new HIV cases (19 men and 21 women) were detected between January and June. This is the highest number of cases detected over a six-month period.
We now know enough about HIV/AIDS and how the disease is transmitted. However, despite ongoing awareness programs, unprotected sex remains the main mode of transmission in Bhutan.
According to a press release from the Ministry of Health, 13 were diagnosed through medical screening, 12 through contract tracing, 10 through voluntary counseling and testing and five through screening of pregnant women receiving services. prenatal care.
Since the disease was first detected in Bhutan in 1993, the number of cases recorded to date stands at 835. Currently, some 628 people are living with HIV in the country; 608 are on antiretroviral therapy, representing 97% treatment coverage among living cases.
As positive cases multiply, we may need to rethink our strategies and approach. If awareness and education aren’t working, does that mean we’re not doing enough? Are we not reaching the right target groups? Where are we below?
These are important questions. But, more importantly, answers must be found and effective interventions put in place.
Awareness and education continue to be our approach in the fight against the disease. However, as stated by the Ministry of Health, there is a need to scale up HIV counseling and testing to close the current case detection gap of 35.8%.
In what could be considered a significant development, the Ministry of Health has started conducting pre-validation assessments to verify Bhutan’s readiness for the triple elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, syphilis and hepatitis B by 2025.
Sowai Lyonpo Dechen Wangcmo said that if Bhutan is to achieve an AIDS-free generation, “pregnant mothers should be tested for HIV twice throughout their pregnancy and avoid risky behavior during pregnancy. breastfeeding to prevent mother-to-child transmission. ”
For this, the extension of HIV testing programs to all health facilities and to the stand-alone community testing center, especially in urban centers, will be a very useful intervention.
What we also know is that almost 70% of HIV cases in Bhutan are in the economically productive age group – 25 to 49 years old. This, in the long term, could have a negative impact on the country’s health and economy.
Creative promotion of safer sex and condom use needs to be given new impetus. Destroying stigma remains our greatest challenge. The fight against HIV/AIDS requires renewed and sustained attention.