22 new HIV cases detected in the last six months

In the last six months, June to November, the Ministry of Health (MoH) detected 22 new cases of people living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) taking the total numbers of cases detected in 2017 to 55.

With the new HIV cases detected, the total number of people living with HIV in the country has reached 570, of which 294 are male and 276  female.

Of the 22 new HIV cases, 12 were female and 10 male.

According to a press release from the health ministry, among the new cases, 36% each are housewives and farmers, 14% drivers, 9% civil servants and 5% unemployed groups.

“27% were detected through medical screening, 23% each through voluntary counseling and testing (VCT), Antenatal Care (ANC) and contact tracing and the remaining 4% through mobile screening,” states the release.

95% of them are aged 20-49 and 5% above 50 years. All the new detected cases of HIV confirmed acquiring the infection through unprotected heterosexual route.

Health minister Tandin Wangchuk said that as per the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) estimation, Bhutan is expected to detect 1,100 cases but as of now, the detected cumulative is 570 cases, leaving a detection gap of about 48% to achieve.

“The early diagnosis of HIV is very important for initiation of care, treatment, support and to prevent further transmission of HIV,” said Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk, urging the Bhutanese population to come forward to avail the HIV testing and counseling services to know one’s HIV status.

The Director of Department of Public Health, Dr. Karma Lhazeen also said that HIV transmission from mother to child has reduced drastically with zero reporting among the recent cases. She also added that the health ministry is targeting toward the triple elimination of HIV, syphilis and hepatitis B among newborns by 2020.

The data on the overall detection in the country reveal that females are exposed to HIV at a younger age than males.

The press release also states that as per findings of several studies by the health ministry, some of the key factors that contribute to acquisition and transmission of HIV in Bhutan are young age, sexuality, multiple sexual practices, low-risk perceptions, sex under the influence of alcohol, increased mobility and low condom use.

Lucky Wangmo from Thimphu