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HIV Infection Rate in Laos Increased

Source: Vientiane Times

The number of new HIV infections in Laos is increasing every year, which has led health officials to encourage at-risk groups to change their behavior to stop the spread of the debilitating and often fatal virus.

The Centre for HIV/AIDS/STI reported that 2,066 new HIV infections were recorded in 2023. Statistics to date indicate that 20,688 cases of HIV have been identified, of which 7,059 developed into AIDS. A total of 5,660 people have died and 11,980 people have been treated with anti-viral drugs.

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Speaking at a national meeting on combatting AIDS, Minister of Health Dr. Bounfeng Phoummalaysith said that issues related to the current unsettled global situation had caused financial problems and budget constraints which had affected many countries including Laos.

A lack of foreign funding support was one of the reasons why the Lao health sector did not have sufficient financing to carry out any plans concerning HIV/AIDS.

“Foreign financial support has decreased and the government has many other demands on its limited resources. But in the meantime, we are seeing more cases of HIV,” Dr Bounfeng said.

He added that even though Laos has a low prevalence rate of new HIV infections at just 0.3 percent of the population, there are many obstacles on the path to lowering the risk of infection.

Firstly, it is difficult to access at-risk groups to encourage behavioral changes, discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS people is commonplace, and there is a powerful social stigma attached to anyone who admits to having HIV or AIDS.

In addition, the budget available for community outreach and HIV prevention is very limited. 
But Dr. Bounfeng stressed that the national committee on combatting AIDS has an important role to play in encouraging all agencies involved to educate people about HIV/AIDS prevention, testing, and treatment and to regularly publicize information about the virus, the illnesses it causes, and how it can be contracted.