AIDS Deaths Down But HIV Infections Rise In Laos

Deaths from HIV/AIDS in Laos are on the decrease but the country continues to see new cases in significant numbers, Lao News Agency KPL reported on Monday.

The revelations come in findings that look at trends through to mid-2014 published by the Monitoring and Evaluation Unit of the Center for HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases of the Ministry of Health.

Speaking at the launch, Unit head Keophouvanh Douangphachanh said the annual death toll attributed to AIDS had shown annual decreases from 130 deaths in 2010 through to 104 in 2013, reflecting improved efficacy and availability of anti-retroviral treatments.

Disturbingly however, the number of new cases in the country continues to rise with 423 cases identified in the first six months of 2014, many already in developed stages.

“Some 196 of them had developed full-blown AIDS and 63 of them died,” Keophouvanh said.

Apart from those typically known as at-risk groups, he also identified housewives, laborers, migrant workers and farmers as being vulnerable without the necessary knowledge to protect themselves.

As of June 2014, some 415,167 individuals in Laos had been recorded as undergoing HIV tests in the country began testing in 1990.

Among those tested, 6,661 tested positive for HIV and 3,977 had developed AIDS.

Some 1,571 deaths in Laos have been attributed to AIDS since 1990.

Keophouvanh said there were more than 170 clinics across the country capable of conducting blood tests and providing consultations on HIV prevention free-of-charge.

Nine centers in Laos were treating people living with HIV with another expected to be opened this year, he said.

With those HIV/AIDS at higher risk of mortality from other infections, the focus of experts is also shared with potentially- fatal contagions such as tuberculosis.

The United Nations‘ agency UNAIDS has called for the scale-up of integrated HIV and tuberculosis services, particularly in the countries and regions most affected by the dual epidemics.

Some 9 million people developed tuberculosis in 2013 and 1.5 million people still die of the disease every year, according to UNAIDS figures released last week to mark World Tuberculosis Day.