The Luang Prabang provincial Health Department is campaigning for greater condom use after learning the province has the highest rate of HIV infection in Laos.
Statistics recorded in 2010-2011 by the Ministry of Health show the HIV infection rate in Luang Prabang is 1.8 percent of the population of more than 500,000 people. The lowest rate of condom use – among service women – is thought to be the main reason for this high rate.
Department Director Dr Amphone Phalammixay said medical staff in the province are gearing up to encourage target groups, especially service women, to use condoms, in a bid to ensure the rate of infection is less than 1 percent by 2015.
“The challenge for us is that some service women come to Luang Prabang because of the large number of tourists here. We don’t have any precise figures because many of them make contact by mobile phone and are not based in any sort of workplace,” he said.
To fight the virus effectively, Luang Prabang is expanding the health communication network throughout all 12 districts in the province. The programme offers free blood tests for HIV. In addition, all mothers-to-be are encouraged to participate in the programme.
The department also promotes condom use at hotels and restaurants to make sure that all guests have access to information about HIV and its prevention.
The message on the dangers of HIV/AIDS is also promoted at all secondary schools in the province. The department also publicises HIV/AIDS through the media to ensure that all messages concerning the virus reach all segments of the population.
Dr Amphone said that to make sure the virus is kept at bay, it is advisable to follow the slogan ‘one husband, one wife’. “If people abide by this motto, it will not only create happy families, it will also help to keep them healthy,” he said, adding that all programmes support the UN Millennium Development Goal No. 6 on combatting HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.
According to the Centre for HIV/AIDS/STIs, from 1990 to the end of 2011, 4,272 people in Laos tested positive for HIV.
Of these, 2,736 people developed AIDS and 1,170 people died from the virus. In Vientiane alone, 1,464 people have tested positive for HIV, with most of them being relatively young.
According to UNAIDS, at the end of 2010 an estimated 34 million people globally were living with HIV, including 3.4 million children under the age of 15. There were 2.7 million new HIV infections in 2010, including 390,000 among children aged 14 or less.
published with the permission of Vientiane Times