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19 put on Anti Retro Viral treatment

Health: The number of people infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) has increased by 28 with the health ministry detecting at least five new HIV positive cases every month between July 1 and November 30 this year.

With 28 new HIV positives detected in 11 females and 17 males including a minor in the last five months, the total number of HIV cases detected since 1993 in the country today stands at 460.

A press release from the health ministry states that nine HIV positives are within the age group of 30-39 years while five are youth between 15- 24 years.

Sexual transmission accounted for 96 percent of the new cases and the remaining four percent acquired the infection through mother to child transmission. No transmission was reported through injecting drug use and blood transfusion during this period.

While 36 percent of the new cases were detected by tracing contacts, 32 percent were detected during medical screenings. Other cases were detected through voluntary counselling and testing, antenatal care and screening when donating blood.

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Going by the occupational background, eight of the new cases are private/business sector employees, seven are housewives, four are farmers; two drivers, two students/trainees and one cases each were detected in a civil servant, corporate employee, Arm Force, minor and an unemployed. Of the 460 detected so far, 354 are living with HIV/AIDS in the country, 20 live outside Bhutan and 86 have died.  Of the 20 positive people living outside Bhutan, 19 are non-Bhutanese expatriate workers. More than 47 percent of the people living with HIV are concentrated in Chukha and Thimphu.

Among the 239 people put on Anti Retro Viral treatment (ART), 29 had died while 210 are still continuing the treatment.

“Among the 28 new cases, 19 of them are eligible for treatment and are put on ART,” the press release stated. The CD4 count test, an important criterion for treatment for people living with HIV, for the remaining nine people are still in the process of follow-up and counselling.

As Bhutan joins the international community in showing solidarity and commitments on the World AIDS Day today, health minister Tandin Wangchuk in his message to the public stated that, despite the notable success that Bhutan has achieved, there are equal challenges in addressing the constraints related to HIV prevention among the key affected population groups and other vulnerable groups.

The day, this year is observed with the national theme ‘Seeking everyone’s shared responsibility to end AIDS epidemic by 2025’. This ambitious commitment calls for shared responsibilities from all walks of life in getting to zero through prevention of HIV/AIDS, extending support to those affected, and accelerating HIV counselling and testing services.

“As per the UNAIDS estimates, Bhutan still has a detection gap of about 59 percent from the total estimates cases of 1,100 and bridging this gap is crucial to meet our commitments,” lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk said.

The press release stated that on the overall nature of epidemic, Bhutan still has low prevalence at 0.1 percent.

Nirmala Pokhrel

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