Call to realise AIDS-free generation in Brunei

A MESSAGE from Minister of Health Dato Paduka Dr Haji Md Isham bin Jaafar in conjunction with World Aids Day 2017

World AIDS Day is commemorated every December 1, and this year it is an opportunity for us to take stock of our progress in reaching the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal of ending the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat and help us move closer to the goal of an AIDS-free generation.

This year’s theme, ‘My Health, My Right’ reminds us that the right to health is more than just access to quality health services and medicines. It also depends on a range of important assurances, including education and health literacy to empower individuals to make healthy choices for themselves and help others do the same.

Brunei Darussalam is not immune to the threat of HIV. Our first local HIV case was detected in 1986, and since then 199 cases have been reported among citizens and permanent residents. A total of 106 new cases have been reported since 2014 suggesting an overall increase in the general trend.

A number of reasons can account for this perceived increase in cases – including improved HIV awareness and better screening. However, it is likely that increased risky behaviours also contribute to this rise. This is alarming considering that HIV is entirely preventable.

Anyone who is sexually active is at risk of HIV, but Ministry of Health (MoH) data reveal that certain groups in Brunei Darussalam are at higher risk. Unprotected sex with someone other than a marital partner increases the risk of contracting HIV.

Men who have unprotected sex with men are at particularly high risk. Other possible modes of transmission for HIV include sharing infected syringes or needles, mother-to-child transmission and receiving HIV infected blood transfusion.

The key to eliminating this threat is to understand that HIV is preventable. With three simple measures, we can reduce the threat of HIV and AIDS to ourselves and our community

A – Abstain. Avoid any activities that can cause transmission of HIV.

B – Be faithful.

C – Get Checked. HIV screening means that those who are infected know and get treatment and can take appropriate measures to protect others from acquiring the infection.

If you are concerned about contracting HIV, speak to a healthcare professional at your health centre or clinic. You should not feel anxious about coming forward to request an HIV test.

Similar to other medical conditions such as diabetes, patient confidentiality is a key cornerstone of our health service.

Additionally, it is the law in Brunei Darussalam (under the Infectious Disease Act Cap. 204) to protect the confidentiality of a person who tests positive for HIV.

HIV is more than just a medical condition. The reasons for its spread are socio-behavioural, and people’s knowledge, attitude and practices play a big role in eliminating the threat of HIV.

This is why, in line with the MoH’s vision – Together Towards a Healthy Nation, and its priority to inculcate Health is Everyone’s Business – we will continue to engage the public and all relevant stakeholders including non-government organisations (NGOs) such as the Brunei Darussalam AIDS Council towards empowering the public in prevention of HIV/AIDS as well as other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

We call upon all individuals to help us realise an AIDS-free generation in Brunei Darussalam.