BANGKOK, June 4, 2015 – Today, Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health with the support of its U.S. partners, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S. CDC), launched a new initiative to increase HIV testing and treatment among men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender (TG) women in Thailand.
While Thailand has slowed the HIV epidemic among other populations, such as commercial sex workers, efforts to reduce new infections among MSM have not been as successful.
In October 2014, Thailand became the first country in Asia to offer immediate, free antiretroviral treatment to all people infected with HIV. Through the new “Test, Treat, and Prevent HIV” initiative, which is being implemented with support from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), USAID and U.S. CDC will assist Thai national and local partners as they put this new policy into practice in project sites in seven provinces, specifically focused on the needs of MSM and TG women, across Thailand.
“HIV testing and treatment can save lives and prevent new infections,” said W. Patrick Murphy, Chargé d’affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Thailand. “We can slow the spread of this disease in Thailand if we increase the number of those who are tested and, if they are infected quickly provide them antiretroviral treatment. We welcome the opportunity to work with the Royal Thai Government on this initiative, as it has valuable global benefits.”
Experts believe that about 43 percent of all new HIV infections in Thailand will be among MSM in 2015 and that this will continue to rise if not addressed. Less than a third (31 percent) of MSM in Thailand received the results of an HIV test in the past year. Among those diagnosed with HIV, less than half (about 44 percent) began treatment. By partnering with the Ministry of Public Health to generate demand and improve service access and quality, USAID, which supports activities at community health centers, and the U.S. CDC, which brings technical expertise to hospitals, hope to demonstrate substantially more effective and efficient approaches that increase HIV testing and treatment among MSM and TG women in Thailand.
“The faster people get tested for HIV, the faster they can get treated and live normal lives,” said Dr. Sopon Mekthon, Director General of the Department of Disease Control at the Ministry of Public Health. “Once you know your status, HIV is like any other chronic disease where you can take medicine every day and learn how to be healthy again.”