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HIV prevalence rate "under-reported"

A red ribbon, the symbol for the global fight against HIV/AIDS
(Glenna Gordon/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.

Below are highlights IRIN compiled from recent HIV-related surveys and interviews:

40.6%:FSW who did not use a condom because a client paid extra
8.9:Average number of clients per FSW, per week
0.68%:HIV prevalence among tested HIV patients
1.79%:TB-HIV co-infection rate
25.6%:MSM who have been tested for HIV
32.5%:FSW who have been tested for HIV
9.6%:FSW who used drugs in the past month
60%:FSW drug users who shared needles
3.5:Average number of regular female partners per MSM
43.5%:MSM who used condom with last regular female partner
43%:MSM reporting using a condom last time they had anal sex with a non-regular partner
1.1 millionEstimated national population (World Bank, 2008)
800-1000:Number of people nationwide who tested for HIV in 2009

9%:Women aged 20-24 who were pregnant by age 15


• Interview with Narciso Fernandes, National HIV/AIDS Programme Manager, Ministry of Health , September 2010

• Integrated Bio-Behavioural Surveillance and sentinel surveillance, WHO and Timor-Leste government, September 2010

• Timor-Leste National HIV and Strategy 2011-2016 (draft)

• United Nations General Assembly Special Session 2010 Country Progress Report (based on 2008-2009 data)

• Behavioural Surveillance Survey, first-round results for female sex workers, men having sex with men and uniformed personnel, International HIV Research Group and University of New South Wales, May-August 2008


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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