Ministry of Health detects 39 new HIV cases in 2022
𝗝𝗮𝗻𝘂𝗮𝗿𝘆 𝟭𝟯, 𝟮𝟬𝟮𝟯: In the last six months from July to December 2022, the Ministry of Health has detected 39 new HIV cases (23 male and 16 female). Out of 39 newly diagnosed cases, 23 are between 25-49 years old, 13 are above 50 years old while the remaining 3 are below 25 years of age. Among the new cases, 22 have been diagnosed through medical screening, 8 through Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT), 6 through contact tracing, 2 through Antenatal Care (ANC) screening and 1 through blood donation screening services. Out of 39 new cases, 37 of them have contracted HIV through the sexual route and 2 through Mother to Child Transmission (MTCT). Including the 40 cases diagnosed from January to June 2022 and then 39 cases from July to December 2022, a total of 79 cases were reported in 2022 alone. This is one of the highest annual total cases detected up until now.
The cumulative number of cases reported from 1993 until December 2022 is 874 (456 males and 418 females). At present, about 660 people are living with HIV (PLHIV) in the country. Out of 660 PLHIV, 641 are on antiretroviral treatment (ART) taking the treatment coverage rate to 97%. About 178 of the reported cases died due to AIDS-related complications since the diagnosis of the first case in 1993. Despite the low prevalence of HIV in Bhutan, the need to intensify HIV Counseling and Testing is being accorded high priority by the Royal Government of Bhutan to bridge the current case detection gap of 32.7% of the estimated 1300 HIV cases in the country. The case detection gap has been reduced from 47.6% in 2019 to 32.7% in December 2022 resulting in an overall reduction of 14.9% in the last four years.
Health Minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo stated that, “The Ministry of Health publishes half-yearly reports on HIV status in Bhutan. This year, 79 new HIV cases were detected which is the highest so far given the average detection of 55 cases annually”. The Minister also mentioned that the increasing HIV detection is an indication that people are taking responsibility to come forward to test their status. The testing is made easier through health facilities, community-based HIV self-testing and outreach services. “I urge all our people to consider getting tested for HIV as Our Gyenkhu to achieve the national goal of eliminating the AIDS epidemic by 2030,” said the Health Minister. Further, the Minister added that all expecting parents must undergo two-time testing during pregnancy check-ups to ensure the triple elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, congenital syphilis and hepatitis B. Parents who are currently living with HIV and planning for children should adhere to HIV treatment and other care services to avoid any transmission to the child.
As a part of the national response, the Ministry of Health will strive hard to bridge the current case detection gap and to achieve the sustainable development goal of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. Some of the strategies that the ministry of health is currently implementing to achieve this ambitious goal are community-based testing using HIV self-testing kits to reach the untested and undiagnosed people living with HIV and targeted index testing (contact tracing) for partner notification to efficiently and effectively identify HIV-positive individuals. The Ministry is also enhancing efforts to continue streamlining provider-initiated HIV counseling and testing services across the health facilities as a standard component of medical care and through random testing of laboratory samples in all hospitals. Furthermore, routine surveillance systems in the hospitals across the country are being strengthened to meet the requirement of the elimination of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV, Syphilis and Hepatitis B by 2025.
The prevention of HIV is the responsibility of everyone, starting from an individual to the various stakeholders such as the government, NGOs, private sectors and people living with HIV. The most viable solution to prevent oneself from being infected is to abstain from unsafe sex by practicing correct and consistent use of condoms, not sharing injected drug use needles and being faithful to one’s partner.
For any clarification, please call
Mr Lekey Khandu
National HIV, AIDS & STIs Control Program
Department of Public Health, Ministry of Health
Mobile No: +975-17425548