Keep­ing AIDS at bay

Bhutan Times - - Editorial -

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.

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