Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Brunei - 16 new HIV cases reported in Brunei between 2010 & 2011

SIXTEEN new HIV cases were reported in Brunei between 2010 and 2011, according to UNAIDS' most recent report on the global AIDS epidemic.

With 11 new cases reported in 2011 alone, it represents the highest annual increase - tied with 2009 - since Brunei recorded its first case of HIV in 1986.

Men comprised 62 per cent of new cases, 40 per cent of whom were married at the time of diagnosis, the report read.

Almost all new HIV cases were transmitted through male-to-female sexual contact, with only two likely cases involving male-to-male sexual contact. There was one case of mother-to-child transmission, which was attributed to the pregnant mother only seeking antenatal care during labour.

The report noted that a total of seven other children have been born to three HIV-positive mothers in the past 5 years. Proper prenatal treatment was able to prevent the transmission of the HIV virus from mother to child.

As of December 2011, there are 49 people known to be living with HIV in Brunei, with one AIDS-related death recorded in the past year.

Although there have been no studies to quantify the prevalence of HIV within the population, the government does takes steps to monitor the disease by screening for the virus among pregnant mothers, blood donors, recipients of blood transfusions, tuberculosis patients, foreign workers applying for work permits, detainees in prison and drug rehabilitation, patients with sexually transmitted diseases and contacts of people with HIV.

It is compulsory for all clinicians to report any positive cases to the Department of Health Services and over 20,000 HIV tests were requested and tested by the Ministry of Health in 2011.

"HIV testing is provided free of charge and available at most government health centres and clinics. However, pre-test counselling and post-test counselling for negative tests is not always done, although post-test counselling if test is positive is always given," the report stated.

First-line antiretroviral drugs are readily provided to citizens and permanent residents who test positive for HIV, although second and third-line antiretrovirals have to be applied for on an individual basis.

As the sole non-governmental organisation addressing HIV/AIDS issues in the country, the Brunei Darussalam AIDS Council has made considerable efforts in increasing awareness on HIV, particularly in youth and teenagers through its peer education programmes, the UNAIDS report said. There are plans to initiate behavioural surveillance in youth and schools over the next few years.

Although prevalence of HIV nationally is considered very low and is expected to remain low in the near future, several issues and challenges will continue to because for concern, the report stated.

Sexually transmitted infections in particular chlamydia and gonorrhea have increased over the past decade suggesting that risky sexual behaviour exists within the community, posing a potential risk of HIV transmission.

Sex education has yet to be included in the curriculum, although the Ministry of Education is considering the introduction of "life-skills based education".

Although majority of the cases reported in Brunei Darussalam have been through heterosexual means, publications around Asia have shown that there has been an increase in the number of homosexual men testing positive for HIV.

"Male-to-male transmission continues to be a difficult group to target for surveillance as well as prevention," the report said.

The Global AIDS Progress Reporting 2012 is an annual report released by UNAIDS (the United Nations programme for HIV/AIDS), the main advocate for a comprehensive response to the global epidemic.

Brunei recorded its first local case of HIV in August 1986 and has recorded 72 cases in citizens and permanent residents up till the end of 2011.

The Brunei Times

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