Ministry of Health Detects 22 New HIV Cases

The Ministry of Health has detected 22 new HIV cases (10 males and 12 females) between June to November 2017. Among the new cases 36% each are housewives and farmers, 14% drivers, 9% civil servants and 5% unemployed groups. The majority (95%) of them are between the ages of 20-49 and 5% above 50 years. Among the 22 new cases, 27% were detected through medical screening, 23% each through voluntary counseling and testing (VCT), Antenatal Care (ANC) and contact tracing whereas 4% through the mobile screening. In terms of route of transmission, all of them have acquired the infection through unprotected heterosexual route. With this the total cases detected in 2017 (until November) is 55.
Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk, Ministry of Health said: “As per the UNAIDS estimation, Bhutan is expected to detect 1100 cases but as of now we have detected a cumulative of 570 cases thus we have a case detection gap of about 48% to achieve”. Therefore, Lyonpo urged all to come forward and avail the HIV testing and counseling services to know one’s HIV status. “The early diagnosis of HIV is very important for initiation of care, treatment, support and to prevent further transmission of HIV,” Lyonpo added. The Director, Department of Public Health, Dr. Karma Lhazeen said: “HIV Testing and Counseling services were expanded till the Basic Health Units (BHUs) Grade II since 2013 and HIV infection from mother to child has reduced drastically with zero reporting among the recent cases”. She also added that Ministry is targeting towards the triple elimination of HIV, Syphilis and hepatitis B among the newborn and we will strive to achieve it by 2020.

The cumulative number of cases reported from 1993 till November 2017 is 570 (294 are male and 276 are female). At the time of detection majority of the male are at the age group of 30-40 years and females in the age group of 15-29 years. This indicates those females are exposed to HIV at younger age than the male. In terms of route of transmission 93% have acquired HIV infection through the heterosexual, 6% mother to child transmission (MTCT) and 1 % through injecting drugs and blood transfusion (outside the country) respectively. In terms of diagnosis, 29% is through contact tracing, 22% each by medical screening and Voluntary Counseling Testing (VCT), 11% mobile screening and 10% Antenatal Care (ANC) while 6%through blood donation screenings. At present, there are 430 people living with HIV virus in the country and among them, 90% (390) are on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment and remaining 10% are defaulters and non-compliant cases.

As per the findings of the several studies (GP-2006, BSS-2009, RA-Sexual Network study-2010 and IBBS 2016) conducted by the Ministry of Health the young age sexuality, multiple sexual practices, low-risk perception, sex under the influence of alcohol; increased mobility and low condom use are some of the key factors that contribute to acquisition and transmission of HIV in Bhutan. The Ministry of Health is constantly educating the public and reaching out to the most at-risk populations. Some of the new initiatives are mobile HIV testing and counseling services, condom vending machines, rolling out of treat all policy and introduction of viral load testing to overcome the prevention and transmission of HIV in the country.

The prevention of HIV is the individual responsibility at all across the society. HIV can transmit from person to person only if infected body fluids such as (Blood, semen, vaginal or anal secretions and breast milk). The four main ways where these fluids can come in contact with each other are having unprotected sex, Transfusion of HIV infected blood or blood products, sharing of HIV infected needles, syringes, blades, piercing instruments and HIV infected pregnant mother to her child. The simple ways to prevent HIV and AIDS is to abstain from sex, be faithful to one’s partner, use condom correctly and consistently and do not use drugs. This year the World AIDS Day will be observed in Thimphu at Nazhoen Pelri YDF Hall on 1st December 2017 with the theme “Right to Health”. Ministry of Health will also organize an HIV Testing & Counseling Camps in Thimphu and Phuentsholing town. Know your HIV status-Get Tested.

For any clarification, please contact.
Mr. Lekey Khandu, Program Officer
National AIDS Control Program
Department of Public Health, Ministry of Health.
Mobile No: +975-17425548, E-mail lkhandu@health.gov.bt