The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Thailand was the first country in Asia to stop HIV transmission from a pregnant woman to her child. The announcement was made this Tuesday, and it puts Thailand on the short list of countries that solved the problem. Cuba was the first country in the world to do it; Belarus got not only accomplished it but also, eliminated the transmission of syphilis from mother to child. Armenia is free from that problem too.
“I do think that once Thailand has been able to do it, it’s motivation for other countries around the world and also, for the public health community because one does see now that, yes, the world can be free from HIV” Said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO’s South Asia director.
Thailand was on the top list of countries with HIV
In 2011, a report from the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) placed Thailand in the top eleven from the list of Asia-Pacific countries with HIV-infected people. Previous reports have shown that the virus cases in this region of the world outnumber any other continent in the globe.
At the time, the virus was almost exclusively present among gay men. Then, it spread into the drug user population which infected prostitutes. Even nowadays, most HIV cases are reported among gay men and drug users, and authorities have been working very hard to tackle this problem.
HIV in the female population was predominant in prostitutes, although there are a lot of women that got AIDS from a long-term sexual partner. The main problem is the prevention culture or the lack of it. According to the Department of Disease Control (CDC) 60% of teenagers having sex do not use condoms. Half of men who have sex with other men and an outstanding 40% of sex workers don’t use it either. And sometimes, the consequences go beyond the individual.
According to WHO, there were 220,000 cases of babies who were born with HIV in 2014. The same organization says that in 2012, medical centers reported 200,000 stillbirths and neonatal deaths caused by syphilis.
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Social workers and scientists united against the disease
At first, as many other governments nowadays, Thailand’s response to the first cases of AIDs was weak which allowed the virus to spread and kill a lot of people. But since the Prime Minister’s office is in charge of dealing with the disease, things have changed. In fact, the country has the most efficient and praised HIV prevention system in the modern world. The government has been using both the social and the scientific approach to control the situation.
The most important weapon they have used is awareness. The health system changed in order to not only educate, but to provide people living with AIDS with the necessary retroviral. A lot of activities to educate the population have helped to reduce the social stigma an infected individual can face every day. But yet again, with this kind of disease, the best approach is prevention.
The government also demands sex workers to receive sexual transmission infection tests every month, and by law, they are forced to carry these records with them. Which means, both locals and clients could ask to see them before engaging in any kind of sexual activity.
As for the role of scientists, Thailand has invested a lot of money in biotechnology. They want to improve the life-style of a person that is affected already, but also, to keep the virus from spreading. In fact, the CDC and Thailand Ministry of Public Health carried out a study back in 2013. Since drug users are one of the populations with higher risks of getting AIDS, the researchers wanted to know if providing them with free retroviral could reduce the transmission rates. They chose a big group and separated them into the ones receiving the retroviral and the ones getting a placebo. By the end of the study, the researching team reported that there was a 48.9% reduced virus transmission among the people that got the retroviridae.
However, the transmission rate remains steady in gay and transgender populations. Also, the government has noted that for migrants and women who live outside the reach of social programs are a great concern. From that group, there are a lot of pregnant women that are not receiving treatment.
Ultimately, the prevention movement in Thailand wants to address every group at high risk of being infected and provide the proper education and resources to eliminate the virus from the country.
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Source: Daily Mail