Nima Wangdi  

Bhutan detected 40 new HIV cases between January and June this year. Of that, 19 are males and 21 females. 

This is the highest number of cases detected in a period of six months to date.

Those between 25 and 49 years constitute 70 percent of the cases and 20 percent are above 50. Children below five years account for five percent.

According to a press release from the health ministry, 13 were diagnosed through medical screening, 12 through contract-tracing, 10 through voluntary counselling and testing, and five through screening of pregnant mothers availing antenatal care (ANC) services.

Between 1993 and June 2022 Bhutan recorded 835 of which 433 are males and 402 are females.

From 2000 to 2013, the number of new HIV diagnoses rose from nine to 51, according to the press release. At present, about 628 people are living with HIV in the country.

The press release stated that out of 628, 608 are on antiretroviral treatment resulting in 97 percent treatment coverage among the living cases.

“Despite the low prevalence of HIV in the country, the need to intensify HIV counselling and testing is being accorded high priority to bridge the current case detection gap of 35.8 percent of the estimated 1,300 HIV cases in the country,” it stated.

The health ministry updates the HIV epidemic in the country every six months.

Sowai Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo said that the ministry was working hard toward bridging the case detection gap. “Cases detection gap has been reduced significantly since 2019 but it is not enough to meet the national and global target to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.”

“To achieve an AIDS-free generation, all our pregnant mothers must avail the two-time HIV testing during their entire pregnancy period and avoid any risky behaviour during breast-feeding to prevent mother-to-child transmission,” Lyonpo said.

The ministry is currently in the process of carrying out the pre-validation assessment to check Bhutan’s readiness for the triple elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, syphilis and hepatitis B by 2025, the press release states.

Public health officiating director, Rixin Jamtsho, said that the ministry expanded its HIV testing programs to all healthcare facilities, standalone community testing centre called health information and service centre (HISC) in six major urban areas including the private diagnostic centres”.