At least 658 new AIDS cases have been detected in Bangladesh, while 141 patients have died of AIDS in the country in 2020. With this, Bangladesh has so far detected 8,031 AIDS cases and 1,383 of those patients have died, according to the AIDS Programme of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).
The DGHS unveiled the statistics at an event marking World AIDS Day 2020 at the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy in Dhaka on Tuesday.
ABM Khurshid Alam, director general at the DGHS, said the testing services were hampered in 2020 due to the novel coronavirus situation, which resulted in a low number of detected cases.
"The number might be higher if we could test more," he said.
Saying that in the last year, the number of new cases was 919, while the number of deaths was 170, he urged people to test for this as the government provides free testing and treatment.
"Undetected patients pose serious risks of infecting others," said Khurshid Alam, adding, "The treatment of HIV-infected people often causes the infection to be spread to healthcare providers, especially those involved in surgery."
Shamiul Islam, TB and AIDS/STD programme line director at the DGHS, disclosed the yearly AIDS report at the event.
He said that an estimated 14,000 people are living with AIDS in Bangladesh, but about 43% of them are undiagnosed.
"Among the new cases, 124 were among Rohingya people," Shamiul added.
About 33% of the newly-infected people were among the general population, 15% were among migrants, 20% were among intravenous drug users, 19% were among Rohingya people, 5% were among members of the homosexual population, 5% were among male sex workers, 2% were among members of the transgender community, and 1% were among female sex workers.
Over 70% of AIDS patients were married while 23% were single and others were divorced, separated and widowed.
In terms of age, the majority (74%) were in the age group of 25-49 years, nearly 2% of the patients were below five years, about 1% in 6-9 years and over, 2% in 10-18 years of age, while nearly 9% were in the 19-24 year range, and the rest were above 50 years old.
Health Secretary Abdul Mannan said Bangladesh is aiming for the eradication of HIV by 2030 and this could be possible with early detection and treating people who are currently undiagnosed.
"Covid-19 has sensitised us about how to protect ourselves from becoming infected from the virus and awareness can help us detect undiagnosed HIV patients," he said.
The secretary also urged people to wear masks and maintain physical distancing as such practices are crucial until Bangladesh gets Covid-19 vaccines.
He also expressed his hope that the government will bring in Covid-19 vaccines in February next year.