In line with UNAIDS guidelines, Thailand’s Public Health Ministry is boosting its efforts to combat HIV/AIDS. Toward the goal of zero new infections, the ministry is targeting at-risk groups, including housewives, sex workers, and men who have sex with men.
Thailand logs roughly 10,850 new HIV infections annually. Of these patients: 33 percent are MSM; 28 percent are housewives who contracted the virus from their husband or regular sex partner; 10 percent are men who contracted the virus from their spouse; 10 percent are men who contracted it from sex workers; 9 percent are injection drug users. Seven percent of new infections are linked to casual sex.
Public Health Minister Jurin Laksanawisit said sex education is an important tool for stopping new infections. “For example, we have provided 16 to 30 hours of sex education to students each year,” he said.
In addition, ministry officials have upped the threshold for which antiretroviral treatment is recommended. ARVs used to be prescribed only after CD4 counts fell below 200; the figure is now 350. The government budget for free treatment has been boosted to baht 2.99 billion (US $99.5 million) this year, up from baht 2.7 billion (US $89.6 million) in 2010. “We have also provided free treatment to alien workers suffering from AIDS,” said Jurin.
“To ensure zero discrimination, we don’t allow employers to subject their employees to HIV blood tests before recruitment,” the minister noted.
Free, twice-yearly HIV testing is available to every Thai through the government’s health care programs.