Almost 5,000 people in total have tested positive for HIV/AIDS in Laos, according to the National Centre for HIV/AIDS/STIs.
The centre’s Deputy Director, Dr Chanthone Khamsibounheuang, was quoted as saying in the Socio-Economic newspaper on Friday that the main cause of the surge in HIV infections was unsafe sex. He added that the disease was on the rise in Laos despite the centre’s campaigns among target groups.
Vientiane reported the highest number of people infected with HIV/AIDS with 1,752, while Savannakhet province followed with 1,719. In 2011 alone, about 670 people were infected with HIV/AIDS in Laos, 58 more than in 2010, the centre was quoted as reporting.
Dr Chanthone said many people engage in unsafe sex because they are not aware of how to protect themselves from the disease. The centre is focusing on an information campaign by distributing free condoms and expanding its advisory network for at-risk groups.
Laos currently has more than 100 blood testing centres for HIV/AIDS across the country and seven fee-free treatment centres in Vientiane and the provinces of Savannakhet, Champassak, Luang Prabang, Bokeo and Luang Namtha.
The first case of HIV in Laos was reported in 1990 and the first AIDS patient was diagnosed in 1992.
According to health officials, Laos faces a serious threat from the virus because it is surrounded by five nations with a higher rate of infection. As a transit country, the trend is towards more exchanges of people and goods between neighbouring countries, leading to more hotels and entertainment venues offering sex services and the means to acquire injection drugs.
All these factors could cause the virus to spread unless strong prevention measures are put in place, Dr Chanthone said.
One of the main challenges is that the education level of Lao people, especially those living in remote areas, remains low. The government attaches great importance to the health of the Lao people by ensuring access to health services and information on how to avoid contracting the disease.
In recent years, many activities centred on HIV/AIDS prevention have been organised by both the private and public sectors, including consultation services and a “friends teach friends” awareness-raising initiative.
Source: Vientiane Times