Getting at the root of the problem

Despite increased awareness campaigns, HIV/AIDS cases are on the rise. Since the first reported case in 1993, number of people with HIV/AIDS in the country has grown to 515.

We may be geographically isolated, but that is no comfort. What we must understand is that no society can be impervious to this disease. With increasing cross-border migration and international travel, HIV infections can only increase. There is so a need to address the behavioural risk factors more effectively.

We know that some people spread the disease because they do not know that they are the carriers. What is more disturbing is the possibility of people spreading the disease even as they know that are infected. In that light, there is a need to put in extra effort to address the problems. We cannot leave it on the health sectors alone to tackle this issue. Undergoing voluntary tests could be an important step in that direction.

The majority of people with HIV/AIDS – about 80 percent – are from private businesses, followed by occupational groups. Almost 88 percent of the infected people aged between 15 and 49 years. What this tells us is that the disease affects people of prime and productive age.

On the World AIDS Day recently, Bhutan pledged to fulfil national and global commitments to end AIDS epidemic by the year 2030. Health ministry launched the National Strategic Plan-III (2017-2023) that focuses on fast-tracking the country’s response to ending AIDS by 2030 in line with UNAIDS guidelines. What this indicates is that we have strong political will. What we must understand, however, is that fighting HIV/AIDS is our shared responsibility.

The rise in the number of detection could mean that people understand the importance of HIV testing. As HIV testing programme intensifies, number will only rise. There is no reason to be alarmed. What we know from the reports is that about 90 percent of the cases are infected through unsafe sexual practices. We know the causes. We need to know where our focus should be in dealing with HIV/AIDS prevalence in the country.

We still have time in our hands to stop its spread.

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