UNAIDS has embraced “Equalize” as the World Aids Day (1st December) slogan this year, to highlight the fact that the inequalities that bolster AIDS can be avoided. To eradicate these inequalities, countries need to boost the availability, quality and suitability of HIV treatment, testing and prevention, so that everyone at risk is covered.

UNAIDS is also calling on governments to reform laws, policies and practices to tackle stigma and exclusion faced by people living with HIV, and ensure that all countries have access to the latest research on HIV and its treatment.

Thailand’s universal healthcare coverage (UHC) has won international praise. Under it, people living with HIV can get free antiretroviral drugs and two free blood tests per year. Currently, antiretrovirals are being supplied to 450,000 people in the country.

From 2022, major UHC healthcare schemes in Thailand are also offering pre-exposure and post-exposure prophylaxes to minimize the risk of infection.

However, Apiwat Kwangkaew, president of the Thai Network for People Living with HIV/AIDS, said that despite Thailand’s good medical coverage for the HIV-positive, the high number of deaths from AIDS indicates gaps in the system.

“There are many people who are listed in the ‘lost to follow-up’ list,” he said of HIV-positive individuals. “We need a solid follow-up system and ways of finding out why they do not return to get more antiretrovirals.”

AIDS claimed 9,300 lives in Thailand last year, despite the availability of free, comprehensive care for those living with HIV. Though this figure is worrying, what’s even more worrying is that nearly two-thirds of new HIV infections are in young people.

“The percentage of infections among the young generation is far higher than the global average of about 30 per cent,” said Dr Cheewanan Lertpiriyasuwat, speaking ahead of World Aids Day on December 1. Dr Cheewanan is director of the Disease Control Department’s Division of AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases.

She believes the rising percentage of infections among young Thais reflects a drop in awareness of AIDS. Some people may have forgotten that AIDS exists, while others may be taking things for granted and failing to protect themselves adequately, she said.

Source: Thai PBS