English | Dzongkha Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Less stigmatisation of people living with HIV

Dec 1, 2020

People living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) said they face less stigmatisation these days compared to the previous years. Earlier, people living with HIV faced stigmatization and discrimination including from their own family members. They said less stigmatisation is attributed to awareness.

There are some 741 reported HIV cases in the country.

With the initiative of the nationwide awareness for years now, the stigmatisation of the people living with HIV has also reduced.

“The problem associated with people living with HIV is personal trauma and fear. The stigmatisation level has changed. One important thing is to focus on awareness. Her Majesty the Queen Mother Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck initiated the high-level advocacy programs and even Lhak-Sam created awareness. Whereby the stigmatisation level has reduced,” said Tshering Choden, a person living with HIV.

“I am happy and living peacefully at the Lhak-Sam community centre. Friends and family members also do not discriminate against us as they now understand about the illness. Even while looking at myself, I got the disease in 2006 and appeared on television in 2011. For now, I am healthy and can work as well,” shared Sithal Chhetri, also living with HIV.

“There is still a certain stigma in society but it has reduced drastically. Compared to the past, people don’t fear HIV and stigmatise those living with HIV,” added Wangda Dorji, the Executive Director of Lhak-Sam.

“I think there is definitely a certain level of stigma not just from the community but within the health system as well. So we are working very closely to sensitise health workers and care providers so that people living with HIV do not get stigmatised. This is an initiative that was going on for quite some time now. And have significantly helped in terms of reducing stigma within the health care setting,” said Health Minister Dechen Wangmo, while observing the World AIDS Day in Thimphu, today.

Though there is less stigmatisation in society, people coming forward to test still remains a concern. Health officials said there is inadequate knowledge of HIV/AIDS besides awareness. There are an estimated 1,300 people living with HIV in the country but only 741 have been detected till now. And testing comes as an important part to fill the gap to prevent HIV/AIDS.

Observing World AIDS Day, the Health Ministry also launched HIV self-testing and new Anti Retroviral medicine. Bhutan targets to eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV, hepatitis and syphilis by ten years down the line.

Tshering Zam

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