The level of comprehensive knowledge on HIV/AIDS among the younger population group is only 26.3 percent

Awareness: In an effort to prevent and control transmission of HIV/AIDS in the country, the Department of Public Health organised a partnership seminar on HIV/AIDS on June 2 in Thimphu.

The total number of people detected as being infected by HIV, with equal representation of both the sexes since 1993 stands at 492 today.

“With the current incidence rate, we are grossly worried and at the same time we are equally delighted, as we could detect cases at an earlier stage,” health minister Tandin Wangchuk said

Lyonpo said that the current success of HIV prevention activities in the country that has led to improved case detection and reduced societal stigma are solely attributable to the noble initiatives undertaken by Her Majesty the Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck, the chief patronage and founder of the Dzongkhag Multi-Sectoral Task Force (MSTF).

Despite the government’s huge investment in prevention activities in the country, the findings from the National Health Survey 2012, revealed that the level of comprehensive knowledge on HIV/AIDS among the younger population group is only 26.3 percent, Lyonpo said.

Meanwhile, about 87 percent of the total HIV reported cases in Bhutan are between the age groups of 20 and 49.

Lyonpo said that HIV/AIDS is not a standalone disease or a burden within the purview of the health sector domain. “It is a social problem requiring our coordinated efforts at all levels.”

Lyonpo pointed out that media in different forms could play a vital role in linking the communities with HIV prevention interventions and awareness raising programmes, which in long run will have a significant contribution to the change in individuals’ behavior.

Media is a powerful medium in bringing about a desired behavior outcome in our society, and we must harness this opportunity through such forums and gathering, he added.

Managing editor with Bhutan Observer, Rabi C Dahal, said that mass media plays a central role in people’s lives. Although the news media does not specifically tell readers what to think, it plays an important role in identifying what issues we should think about.

“The more coverage a topic receives in the news, the more likely it is to be a concern of the public,” the editor said. “Conversely, issues not mentioned by the media are likely to be ignored or to receive little attention.”

The news coverage of HIV/AIDS provides a good example of how an important health issue may be invisible to the public eye until the media bring it to light, the editor added.

The editor also pointed out that the public health community and policy makers often do not appreciate the importance and power of the media in shaping the health of the public.

More importantly, media outlets or organisations do not see themselves as a part of, or contributing to the public health system, the editor added.

Lyonpo said that multi-sectorial collaboration and partnership building is one of the key strategies identified in the National Strategic Plan, and this seminar provides the ministry with an opportunity to seek support of the media houses in partnering with the national AIDS response.

“It is our shared responsibility to live up to the noble aspiration of our great Monarchs and uplift the living conditions of our own people,” Lyonpo said.

Dechen Tshomo