Brunei lists 12 new HIV cases

National 2 minutes, 20 seconds

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

BRUNEI Darussalam saw a hike in HIV infections last year with 12 new cases reported, bringing to 93 the cumulative cases recorded here, according to this year’s progress reporting by Global AIDS in the country.

The report by Global AIDS also highlighted that out of the 12 new cases, seven were infected through unsafe homosexual intercourse, one heterosexual and four of unknown routes of transmission.

2013 recorded Brunei’s highest annual increase in HIV cases.

In an exclusive interview with The Brunei Times, Iswandy Ahmad, president of Brunei Darussalam AIDS Council (BDAC), expressed concern on the need to reach out to this ‘underground’ community.

“Two-thirds of the 18 new HIV cases between 2011 and 2012 are due to unsafe same-sex relationships and we are seeing a spike in the trend for last year, too. However, we should also be mindful that HIV is still transmittable via heterosexual relations,” he said.

The recent years have seen a shift in the total number of infections from heterosexual transmission to men having sex with men (MSMs) and transgenders (TGs). The main reason why it is difficult to target for surveillance as well as protection is because there are no formalised groupings or associations that deal specifically with MSM and TG issues.

Nonetheless, BDAC as the sole non-governmental organisation that looks at HIV issues in the country, in collaboration with the government, has made considerable effort in increasing awareness on HIV, particularly in youth and teenagers through its peer education programmes such as HIV and AIDS Awareness Programme for Peers and Youth (HAPPY), Life Skills Training and such.

Meanwhile, Hazrin Daud, the council’s vice-president (for activities and events) urged those who are at risk to get themselves tested for HIV at hospitals and nearby health centres or clinics at no payment at all.

“You wouldn’t know of your HIV status except by undergoing the blood test. Many HIV positive people do not have symptoms. They don’t look or feel sick. Hence, it is important to get tested as soon as possible,” said Hazrin.

The statistics, provided by the Disease Control Division of the Department of Health Services, also stated that as the end of 2013, there are 63 persons known to be living with HIV in Brunei with four AIDS-related deaths recorded in the same year.

Iswandy said: “We are calling all members of the public to be responsible and take care of themselves as well as to educate family members and friends on HIV and AIDS. Health is not to be neglected, especially those who are at risk of getting HIV.

“Because ‘Getting to Zero’ is the theme for World AIDS Day until 2015, but this is impossible to do if everyone is not doing their part. So, I am calling for everyone to play their part in HIV advocacy and education.”

The Brunei Times