English | Dzongkha Thursday, December 12, 2019

Hundreds of people who are infected with HIV still don’t know that they have the virus

Dec 3, 2019

As the nation observed the World Aids Day in Samtse last Sunday, two new people have come out in public with their Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) status.

Jigme and Kinley Zangmo joined the few in the country who came out in public with their HIV status. The couple staying in Zhemgang was first detected with the virus on the same day two years ago.

“The main reason we came out in public is that me and my wife decided we already are infected with the virus and it is of no harm even if we come out in public. It is important for others to know about our status, not just ourselves,” said Jigme.

The first case of HIV was detected in the country in 1993. Since then, 667 HIV cases have been detected while 133 people have succumbed to the deadly virus. The number of cases detected has been on the rise with 60 cases in 2019 alone.

“For every detected case in 2018, more than 1300 tests were conducted. So, now, it is not about whether we are doing enough tests, it’s about whether we are reaching people who are most vulnerable,” said Dr Rui Paulo de Jesus, the World Health Organisation Country Representative.

Bhutan, today, has an estimated 1,265 people living with HIV but only 667 have been detected. This means hundreds of people who are infected still don’t know that they have the virus.

“We have a detection gap of around 45 per cent. If we come together as a community, people will have no reservation coming forward for testing. We must create this enabling environment so people come forward for testing,” said Dechen Wangmo, the Minister of Health.

 The day highlighted the importance of engaging the key and affected communities in reaching the unreached populations with comprehensive HIV and sexually transmitted infection prevention services.

By lunchtime at the event, close to 100 people got tested for HIV. Two of the popular Bhutanese comedians also carried out awareness about the virus and how it gets transmitted at the event. Bhutan has a target of eliminating new HIV cases in the country by 2030 and mother to child transmission of the virus by 2023.

Sherub Dorji

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