TIMOR-LESTE: HIV prevalence rate "under-reported"

15 Oct 2010

TIMOR-LESTE: HIV prevalence rate "under-reported"

Dili, 14 October 2010 (IRIN)
- HIV prevalence is low in Timor-Leste - 0.2 percent based on results from the latest surveillance by the government and World Health Organization (WHO). But this rate is rapidly increasing and most likely under-reported, according to the Health Ministry.

Data on "risky behaviours" is poor for groups considered at risk of HIV infection: surveys have been conducted of prisoners, military personnel, men who have sex with men (MSM) and female sex workers (FSW), but to date there has been no comprehensive nationwide survey of these groups.

A 2010 WHO and government survey of 181 female sex workers and 300 MSM revealed a 1.33 percent HIV infection rate among the men and 2.76 percent infection rate among the women, but the country has "little idea of just how many and where the MSM and FSW are", said Narciso Fernandes, the Health Ministry's national HIV/AIDS programme manager.

The country's first HIV case was diagnosed in 2003. Seven years later, there are fewer than 200 confirmed cases – and health authorities suspect under-reporting. Though the country's policy is to offer voluntary counselling and testing in nine of the 13 health districts, there are too few counsellors and poor follow-up on positive HIV results, Fernandes said.

Pre-natal HIV testing is currently offered at reference hospitals in two districts, which covers only a small percentage of the estimated 51,000 pregnant women every year, he added.

Source IRIN: http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportID=90766