Bhutan registers 22 new HIV cases in past five months

… 54 new cases were detected this year

Younten Tshedup

The country’s ambitious goal of eliminating mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV is again under threat as the country has detected another case of mother-to-child transmission in the past five months.

This is the first case of MTCT detected this year.

The Ministry of Health detected 22 new cases of HIV (13 men and nine women) including one case of MTCT between July and November of this year. A total of 54 new HIV cases have been detected so far this year.

Sowai Lyonpo (Minister of Health) Dechen Wangmo said the two most important goals for Bhutan in the fight against HIV / AIDS were to find the missing cases and reduce the detection gap by 39% and eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV, syphilis and hepatitis. B.

Lyonpo said the ministry is working to raise awareness of their HIV status through innovative ways of testing HIV services and connecting the public to quality care, support and treatment.

Launched on World AIDS Day last year, the Ministry of Health completed the demonstration project to assess the feasibility of HIV self-testing (HIVST) in the country. Health officials said the ministry, in its first phase, will now launch the program in six priority dzongkhags targeting high-risk populations.

Despite the successful completion of the HIVST feasibility project, Lyonpo warned of the likely risks associated with self-test kits in the form of false negative results, thus giving people false assurance, especially during infection. acute, leading to insufficient counseling and possibly delayed entry into care and treatment, if the ministry’s HIVST protocol is not followed.

The new cases

Of the 22 new HIV cases detected in the past five months, the majority (12) are between 30 and 39 years old. Besides the single case of mother-to-child transmission, the detection pattern (with respect to occupation) has almost remained the same over the years: six of them are farmers, five housewives and five farmers. ‘private companies including two drivers. Others include a monk, an official and a company employee.

In terms of mode of transmission, 21 cases had acquired the infection during unprotected sexual activity and one from the mother during childbirth. Nine of them were diagnosed during medical screening, six each through contact tracing and voluntary counseling and testing, and one during antenatal care.

Health officials said all new cases have been placed under care and treatment.

Department of Public Health director Tandin Dorji said the ministry was studying the use of appropriate rapid test kits that could triple test for HIV, hepatitis B and syphilis for pregnant women.

He said that despite the easy availability of testing facilities in all health centers, including Health Information and Service Centers (HISCs) and private diagnostic centers, the main challenge facing the department was facing was the reluctance of people to get tested. “We urge our people to take advantage of free HIV testing and counseling, as it is the only gateway for timely prevention, care and treatment. “

Meanwhile, out of the 1,300 estimated HIV cases in the country, only 795 (414 men and 381 women) have been diagnosed so far since 1993. The 505 missing cases put Bhutan on a non-case detection gap. HIV by 39% today.

As in many other countries in the region, the majority (70%) of reported HIV cases in Bhutan are between the ages of 25 and 49, indicating that HIV primarily affects the most economically productive age groups. About 94.2 percent of those infected acquired HIV infection through sex, five percent through mother-to-child transmission (MTCT), 0.4 percent through injection drug use, and 0.4 percent through transfusion blood.

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