A total of 79 new HIV cases were detected in 2022 in the country, of which 40 HIV cases were diagnosed from January to June, and 39 cases from July to December 2022. This is one of the highest annual total cases detected up until now, as compared to the past the average detection was 55 cases annually.
Of the 39 HIV new cases detected from July to December 2022, 23 are male and 16 are female. 23 positive cases are between 25 to 49 years old, 13 are above 50 years and the remaining 3 are below 25 years of age.
The Ministry of Health (MoH) reported that among the new cases, 22 have been diagnosed through medical screening, 8 through Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT), 6 through contact tracing, and 1 each through Antenatal Care (ANC) screening services and blood donation.
Out of 30 new cases, 28 of them have contracted HIV through unsafe heterosexual practices, 2 through Mother to Child Transmission (MTCT) and 1 through blood donor screening.
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 percent. 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 so as to bridge the current case detection gap of 32.7 percent of the estimated 1,300 HIV cases in the country. The case detection gap has been reduced from 47.6 percent in 2019 to 32.7 percent in December 2022 resulting in an overall reduction of 14.9 percent 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 Health 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.
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.
Meanwhile, 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.