Bangladesh, which is known as a low HIV/AIDS prevalent country, has witnessed a rapid rise of the infectious disease among the ‘key populations’ in recent years.Female sex workers, men who have sex with men (MSM), and injecting drug users are identified as the key populations because they have the highest risk of contracting and transmitting HIV. Prof Md Shamiul Islam, Line Director of the AIDS, STD Programme in Bangladesh, said the prevalence rose to 3.9 percent in 2016 from 0.7 in 2011.
It was only 0.3 percent even in 2002, a drop from 0.4 percent in 1998-99 when the first study was done.
“The rise is due to injecting drug users,” he said while interacting with journalists of Bangladesh Health Reporters Forum on Sunday at his office.
The government runs programmes through the NGOs to prevent injecting drug users from sharing needles through which the virus goes into blood.
But this rise means that the programme has not gone well.
“I would call it a failure of the programme which was targeted at injecting drug users,” he said.
He added they have introduced a new approach called Opioid Substitution Therapy or OST to deal with drug users who share syringe.
OST is an “advanced harm reduction option” for the drug users.
The government through its supervised clinical settings supplies illicit drug users with a replacement drug, a prescribed medicine such as methadone, which is usually administered orally.
“Oral administration means there is not risk of HIV infection and also gradually we can take them out of drug use. We have 1,700 drug users so far under this OST programme,” the line director said.
“The government is working to achieve the 2030 global goal which means to detect 90 percent of the people who live with HIV, of them 90 percent will be brought under treatment and of them 90 percent will be at a stage from where they cannot transmit the virus.”
Globally this is called 90-90-90, he said.
The number of people living with HIV as confirmed by the government through laboratory tests is 5,586 since the finding of the first case from 1989 to 2017.
Of them, 924 have died of AIDS.
But estimated number of people living with HIV is about 13,000 as of 2017, which means a large number of people do not know their status.
This years World AIDS Day on Dec 1 is themed on know your status which stresses the need for voluntary testing of the viral disease.
Of the total 865 new HIV cases in last year, 31 percent were among the returnee migrant workers.