Recent reports released by the Ministry of Health (MOH) states that at least 29 new HIV positive cases have been detected from December 1, 2014 to June 2015. It averages to almost 4 patients being detected every month.
Although the number of HIV positive cases increase every year, however, the discussion or awareness on HIV gains momentum only during events, like World AIDS Day or when a few HIV positive patients reveal their health status publicly through the media.
During the 18th Meet-the-Press conference held in Thimphu yesterday, the Health Minister, Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk, said MoH is taking measures to reduce the rising number of HIV positive cases each year. He said the ministry maximizing its efforts in creating awareness on the prevention of HIV/AIDS, and to provide help to the patients detected with HIV.
According to World Health Organization, there can be almost 1100 undetected cases of people who are infected with HIV in Bhutan.
“MoH is encouraging every citizen to come forward and do voluntary testing because we cannot demand mandatory testing for any person. MoH can assure that details of person detected with HIV will remain confidential and the patient’s CD4 count will be monitored from time to time so that necessary changes can be made in treating the patients effectively,” said the Health Minister.
A CD4 count is a lab test that measures the number of CD4 cells (CD4 cells are a type of white blood cells that play a major role in protecting the body from infection) in a blood sample. It is an important indicator of how well the immune system is working.
The Health Minister also added that HIV patients are hesitant to come out in the open and share their HIV positive status because of the stigma attached to the disease. Lyonpo said such stigma should stop and instead people should treat the patients with compassion and help them.
“Ministry of Health has also started handing out testing kits so that the detection of HIV infected patients can be done more easily, and the health departments can help the disease from spreading further,” said the Health Minister in connection to the preventive measures being undertaken by the ministry.
Lyonpo also added, “Wherever I go, I try my best to advocate on HIV/AIDS without being hesitant in any way on the matter, so that I can bring out more awareness and detach the stigma from the societies.”