Half of new HIV infections in Thailand among 15-24 year olds

Picture, of Bangna Commercial College on World AIDS Day last December, courtesy of AHF Thailand.

The Department of Disease Control (DDC) in Thailand has revealed that nearly half of the annual 9,000-plus new HIV infections are individuals aged between 15 and 24 years old. This trend has persisted for several years, according to Dr Suchada Jiamsiri, the head of the Division of Aids and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) at the Ministry of Public Health’s DDC.

Dr Suchada, in an interview with the Bangkok Post to mark World Aids Day, indicated that the highest infection rates were previously among sex workers and men who have sex with men but this has now shifted to the younger population. Dr Suchada attributed this change to diminishing attention to the disease among young people and a disregard for condom usage.

“Young people are more likely to focus on preventing unwanted pregnancies, such as by using birth control pills. These have been effective in reducing the number of teenage mothers, but the use of condoms is often overlooked due to the perception that it diminishes sexual pleasure.

“This trend is deeply concerning, and we are doing our utmost to raise awareness about the importance of condom use among young people.”

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In the DDC’s latest survey, it was found that 77.8% of female middle school students and 59.1% of male students utilise condoms. For vocational school students, the figures stand at 77.6% and 72.5% respectively.

Dr Suchada emphasised that the DDC is working closely with civil society to communicate the message that HIV/Aids can be effectively prevented through safe sex.

HIV funding

She also revealed that the state budget for managing HIV/Aids has seen cuts as the disease is no longer considered a significant issue, and foreign funding for local prevention projects has likewise declined. The National Health Security Office (NHSO) remains the key entity supporting HIV/Aids prevention policies, providing over 10 million free condoms annually, along with disease prevention drugs and related hospital tests.

Currently, there are 561,578 individuals living with HIV in Thailand. The country is part of a global commitment to eradicate HIV/Aids by 2030, which includes a goal to reduce new HIV infections in Thailand to under 1,000 annually from the current 9,230. The commitment also aims to decrease deaths linked to HIV/Aids to less than 4,000 cases annually from the current 10,970.

Thailand is on course to achieve the 95-95-95 Global Aids Strategy set by the United Nations, which seeks to diagnose 95% of all HIV-positive individuals, provide antiretroviral therapy to 95% of those diagnosed, and achieve viral suppression for 95% of those treated by 2025.

According to Dr Suchada, by the end of 2022, approximately 90% of those living with HIV/Aids were aware of their status. About 90% of diagnosed individuals were receiving treatment, and 97% of those treated had achieved a suppressed viral infection, preventing them from transmitting the virus to others.

Thailand News

Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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