Thirty-one HIV cases were reported upto November, with three AIDS-related deaths, said Head of the Disease Control Division at the Department of Environmental Health Services Dr Justin Wong at a forum on ‘Implications of HIV in the Workplace’ in conjunction with World AIDS Day 2019 at the Ministry of Health (MoH) yesterday.
He also stated that Brunei Darussalam recorded its first case of HIV in August 1986. Since 1995, Brunei Darussalam has recorded four cases of mother-to-child transmission in 2001, 2011, 2016 and 2018.
On the current situation of HIV/AIDS cases in Brunei Darussalam, Dr Wong said, “The total number of HIV infections in Brunei Darussalam since 1986 is 278. The total number of reported deaths related to HIV/AIDS since 1986 is 59, while the number of people living with HIV today is at 219.
“The cumulative number of women reported with HIV as of November 13, 2019 is 42, and the cumulative number of children under 13 with HIV up to November 13, 2019 is four.”
Sexually transmitted infections have increased over the past decade, suggesting that risky sexual behaviour exists within the local community, he said.
Dr Wong was also joined by Head of Occupational Health Division at the Department of Environmental Health Services Dr Alice Lai, Assistant Commissioner of Labour Rosan Justin Teo bin Haji Azlan and Head of the Infectious Diseases Unit at the Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital Dr Hajah Rosmonaliza binti Haji Asli.
Guest of honour Minister of Health Dato Seri Setia Dr Haji Mohd Isham bin Haji Jaafar launched the forum. Deputy President of the Brunei Darussalam AIDS Council Mohd Hazrin bin Daud was also present.
In highlighting HIV-related stigma, Dr Wong said, “This has prevented people living with HIV from living a productive life, and also hinders the government’s efforts to engage people to come forward for HIV testing.
“More research is needed on social and behavioural dynamics of the high-risk population and other vulnerable groups, while late diagnoses continue to remain a challenge. In some cases, the patients were not aware of their status, until they underwent a blood test.”
He also highlighted several myths related to HIV, “Homosexual activity carries an increased risk, but HIV can affect anyone. About 25 per cent of Bruneians living with HIV acquired the disease though heterosexual intercourse.
“HIV is not spread through day-to-day contact, insect bites, toilet seats, kissing, sharing cutlery and touching.
“Being on HIV treatment makes people with HIV far less likely to pass it on. Although there isn’t a cure for HIV, people diagnosed with HIV in Brunei today can expect to live an active and healthy life. Early diagnosis is particularly important, as the longer HIV goes undiagnosed, the more damage it can do to the body.”
Around 200 people attended the forum jointly organised by the Health Promotion Centre, the Disease Control Division of the MoH and the Brunei Darussalam AIDS Council to address the issue of discrimination and ensure that people living with HIV are able to continue working in Brunei Darussalam.