Ministry of Health Detects 36 New HIV Cases
June 2019│THIMPHU-BHUTAN: In the last six months from January-June 2019, the Ministry of Health has detected 36 new HIV cases (21 male and 15 female). The majority (83%) of the reported cases are between the ages of 20-49 years. Among the new cases, 11 are from housewives, 7 from private/business category while 6 belongs to the driver, 5 from the farmers, 2 each from civil servants and minor while 1 each from corporate, uniformed personnel and unemployed youth. In terms of mode of transmission 34 of them have acquired infection through unprotected heterosexual and 02 from HIV infected mother to child. The contact tracing remained the highest mode of case diagnosis with 36% followed by medical screening 31%, voluntary and counseling (VCT) 22% and 2% each from antenatal check (ANC) and blood donor screening. Currently, all the new cases are being put on care and treatment at the JDWNRH. Total of 57 HIV new cases has been diagnosed in 2018 alone.
“With the detection of 36 new HIV cases from Jan-June 2019 we have closed the case detection gap by 2.4% resulting into overall case detection gap of 47.6% as compared to 50% in Dec 2019,” said Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo, Her Excellency the Hon’ble Health Minister. “Encouraging all the PLHIV to know their HIV status is our priority to ensure timely care, support, treatment and to prevent further transmission from the source”, Lyonpo added.
Her Excellency also highlighted that it is important for the pregnant mothers to get tested for HIV during the entire pregnancy period and if found HIV positive then must take an appropriate action to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV. Lyonpo also cautioned for those HIV negative pregnant mothers to remain negative even after their delivery to ensure zero HIV transmission from mother to child through breastfeeding. This she said is very important for Bhutan to gear towards the triple elimination of HIV, Syphilis and hepatitis B among the newborn by 2020 and beyond.
The Director, Department of Public Health, Dr Karma Lhazeen said: “The Ministry of Health is looking forward to introducing more innovative means of HIV testing and counseling in future to ensure more holistic client-centred HIV-Testing Services”. She further added that such innovative measures are needed with a change in time to encourage more people to get tested on time.
Since 1993 until June 2019 total of 663 HIV cases (344 male and 319 female) has been diagnosed. As per the UNAIDS estimation of 1265 HIV cases, Bhutan still has a case detection gap of 47.6%. Meaning about 602 people are living with the HIV virus but unaware of their status. The majority (71%) of the reported cases falls within the age bracket of 25-49 and 16% between the ages of 15-24 years. While 6% are below 15 years and 8% above 50 years. This shows that HIV in Bhutan has primarily infected the most economically productive age group. However, the infection taking place among the older age group is also picking up gradually and if these groups of populations are into the intergenerational sex (Sexual relationship between the young women and older men) and the transactional sex (Non-marital sex involving exchange of monetary reward and gifts) the likelihood of increasing the risk of acquisition and transmission of HIV in Bhutanese population is high. The majority (30%) of the HIV cases detected are through the contact tracing followed by medical screening (23%), voluntary counseling and testing (22%) and remaining through the ANC check up and onsite mobile screening.
The Program Manager, National HIV, AIDS and STIs Control Program (NACP), Mr Lekey Khandu said: “The contact tracing is a challenging task but it is one key aspect of HIV case finding and need of adequate support both from the infected and affected individual is very important”. He further added that contact tracing will enable our HIV counselor to initiate a process of identification of persons who may have come into contact with an HIV infected person and subsequent collection of further information about these contacts. By tracing the contacts of infected individuals, testing them for infection, treating the infected and tracing their contacts will help reduce the infection in the population. However, strict confidentiality of clients and person traced are maintained during these processes.
The prevention of HIV is the shared responsibility of all individuals irrespective of their HIV status which ideally requires a concerted effort in minimizing the stigma and discrimination at all levels. 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 the 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 a condom correctly and consistently.
Mr. Lekey Khandu
National HIV, AIDS & STIs Control Program
Department of Public Health, Ministry of Health.
Mobile No: +975-17425548,