Mixed results in UN report on HIV fight
Around 50% of the 5,400 new HIV infections recorded in the country last year were among young people aged 15-24 years old, according to information presented by UNAIDS' regional director for Asia and the Pacific.
Eamonn Murphy told the Bangkok Post during the launch of UNAIDS' global report that 2020 targets will not be met due to mixed results in different countries as well as Covid-19 blowing HIV progress way off course.
Mr Murphy noted that HIV infections are declining in Thailand with a 65% reduction in annual cases since 2010. There are presently an estimated 470,000 people living with HIV (PLHIV) in the country.
In Asia and the Pacific region, there were 300,000 new HIV infections -- a 12% decline since 2010, although significant reductions in countries such as Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam were offset by sharp increases in some countries such as Pakistan and the Philippines.
Mr Murphy praised Thailand for its success in combating the virus as well there being no reported cases of PLHIV contracting Covid-19.
The regional director was also very positive about measures implemented since the outset of Covid-19 pandemic to contribute to avoiding potential disruption to HIV services.
For example, the multi-month dispensing (MMD) of antiretroviral (ARV) treatments which prevented people living with HIV from running out of medicine as well as reducing their need to access the health system during the pandemic.
As part of the MMD strategy, the Ministry of Public Health has joined efforts with peer educators from the Network of People living with HIV who provide support door to door to deliver ARV drugs to PLHIV's homes throughout the country in addition to offering Covid-19 screening to these populations.
Despite these important efforts to guarantee sustained access to healthcare for those most vulnerable to HIV, the hardships they face in employment, livelihood and social protection have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 outbreak, he added.
For example, sex workers in Thailand have faced a drastic loss of income and become increasingly vulnerable as a result of the measures put in place to respond to the pandemic.
Mr Murphy did, however, praise the use of results from a survey rolled out to assess the needs of sex workers to enable local authorities and health services to implement comprehensive and integrated approaches for HIV and Covid-19 prevention among this vulnerable group.