Keeping AIDS at bay
The contemporary times we live in are not at all benign. Firstly, if the alarming rate of noncommunicable diseases is not enough, then the number of people detected or living with HIV/ AIDS is on the rise.
The augmenting number of HIV positive cases detected across the country is indubitably a concern. So far 23 new HIV positive cases were reported as per the recent news report with 13 females and 10 males.
The total number of detected cases today is a whopping 515. And this seriously deserves a lot of deep reckoning. The figure is almost double of what it was four or five years back.
Although HIV/ AIDS in Bhutan is categorized as a ‘ low level epidemic’, but this figure is just the tip of an iceberg. This is because almost all the cases that we were diagnosed are done mostly through contact tracing and voluntary testing, while some are found during medical checkup or screening.
As these numbers were derived just from these mechanisms, we could only imagine what the actual figure is likely to be. The figure, therefore, is only expected to be more than what it is now. Thousand of our common folks across the country are still yet to avail such testing facility.
One of the main reasons pointed by the Ministry of Health for people delaying taking up HIV test is because HIV remains in our body without any signs and symptoms for several years ranging from six to ten years
The other disturbing revelation is the age group of the people contracting this disease. We have our most economically productive and reproductive age group contracting this disease. Given our small and vulnerable population, such predicament would only pose serious socioeconomic development risk.
We are not only losing our close and dear ones, but also losing people in the most economically productive and reproductive age group ( as per age group distribution of PLWHAs).
And while we may vie to have HIV diagnostic testing services available in all places across the country, but what is more wanting now is the awareness on safe sex practices or sex education. Unsafe sex is still the main cause of HIV/ AIDS.
Rather considering it a taboo, it’s conceivable, besides the pivotal role of teachers and parents, a curriculum on sex education, where every child is taught that an unprotected sex can kill, will do much better.
It becomes every body’s responsibility to building innovative partnerships with businesses, community, government, and science to strengthen HIV prevention and treatment efforts.
Further it is time to call for action to work together and reach the people who still lack access to comprehensive treatment, prevention, care and support services.