The risk of HIV infection among mass people is increasing as some 37% of an estimated 14,000 AIDS patients remain undiagnosed and many other untreated, say officials.
Some 23% of the identified patients are not taking treatment, with many having left the country, while those who are in the country are unreachable at their addresses and phone numbers.
Under the circumstances, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) has moved to increase detection, diagnosis and bring the untreated under treatment.
The initiatives include testing in 10 prisons and conducting field work with AIDS patients.
According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) data, HIV prevalence remains less than 0.01% among the general population in Bangladesh while the estimated number of people with HIV infection is 14,000.
Bangladesh has so far detected 8,761 AIDS cases and 1,588 of those patients have died, according to the AIDS/STD Programme of the DGHS. The detection rate compared to infected people is 63%.
The National HIV-AIDS programme could not bring all diagnosed people under treatment. It has been possible to bring 77% infected people under treatment while still, 23% infected people remain without treatment. Their risk is high.
AIDS Program officials said they are trying to trace the patients.
Dr Nazrul Islam, a noted virologist and member secretary of first National AIDS committee of Bangladesh told The Business Standard, "It is necessary to increase the detection rate of HIV testing of at-risk populations and ensure that those who are detected gets the treatment."
The UNAIDS 95-95-95 goals aim to ensure that by 2025, 95% of all people living with HIV know their HIV status, 95% of those who have the virus are enrolled on treatment, and 95% of those on treatment have their viral load suppressed.
Against the UNAIDS 95-95-95 targets, Bangladesh has achieved 63-77-93.
Bangladesh's latest AIDS situation will be announced in a programme today, which is also the World AIDS Day. The day will be celebrated in Bangladesh as well as other countries of the world with the theme "Equalize". It means everyone should work to eliminate the injustices that are impeding the fight to end AIDS.
AIDS patients can lead normal lives on medication
Dr Nazrul Islam said, "AIDS patients can stay healthy for a long time by taking medicine regularly."
In Bangladesh the first HIV case was detected in 1989 in a foreign national. In 1990, two Bangladeshi citizens were diagnosed HIV positive. One of them is still leading a healthy life while the other married an AIDS patient after contracting AIDS. The couple has two healthy children.
Many AIDS patients are doing well and have given birth to healthy children.
"Therefore, if AIDS is diagnosed, there is no reason to conceal it or worry. You can stay healthy under treatment and the risk of common people contracting it will also be reduced," said Dr Nazrul Islam.
HIV testing in prisons
The DGHS is providing comprehensive treatment in 23 districts, identified to be at high risk with most detection in recent years. Besides this year, the DGHS has arranged HIV testing in 10 prisons.
Md Akhtaruzzaman, senior manager (Management & Coordination), AIDS/STD Programme, DGHS told The Business Standard, "We are working to achieve the UNAIDS 95-95-95 target by 2025. This year we have appointed one HIV positive person as a field worker in 12 HIV-AIDS treatment centres to motivate AIDS patients to seek treatment."
He also said, "When an AIDS patient tells others, I am an HIV positive patient, I am fine with treatment, you also take treatment, then people are interested in taking treatment."
He added that AIDS patients have also been found in prisons in recent months.
Md Akhtaruzzaman pointed out that Rohingyas are a risk factor among us.
"Their HIV prevalence rate is 0.8% compared to 0.01% among Bangladeshis. The Rohingyas have been mixing with the common people from the camps at various times. However, alongside the Rohingya, the challenge is that the infection is now spreading beyond vulnerable populations to the general population," he said.
Bangladesh has so far detected 8,761 AIDS cases and 1,588 of those patients have died. At least 729 new AIDS cases have been detected and 188 patients have died of AIDS in the country in 2021. About 26% of them were general population, 20% were migrants, 8% were intravenous drug users, 26% were Rohingya people, 9% were members of the homosexual population, 7% male sex workers, 2% members of the transgender community, and 2% were among female sex workers.