|Mongolian experts and doctors shared information related to AIDS and HIV during a press conference on Monday in relation to the upcoming World AIDS Day.
World AIDS Day, observed on December 1 every year since 1988, is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection, and mourning those who have died of the disease.
HIV testing and treatment available for free of charge
“As of November 20, the official number of people affected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in Mongolia is 249. Twenty-five new cases were registered this year. Around 56 percent of HIV patients are between the ages of 20 and 44, and 80 percent of all patients are male,” stated E.Erdenetungalag, HIV/AIDS surveillance specialist at the National Center of Communicable Diseases.
Based on estimations, only 35 percent of people infected with HIV in Mongolia have been detected, she said.
Another HIV/AIDS surveillance specialist, P.Tumendemberel, stressed that there are many people who aren’t aware of their HIV/AIDS status because they haven’t been tested.
Doctors and experts strongly encouraged people to get tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), saying that early detection and treatment are crucial for people who have contracted the virus. She said that people can get tested for STDs for free of charge at public hospitals.
“Around 30 percent of all cases of communicable diseases documented in Mongolia in 2016 and over the past five years were STDs,” doctor E.Erdenetungalag said.
The most common STDs are said to be syphilis, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis and HIV. The occurrences of these diseases have declined since 2015 and experts explained that this is related to the increase of respiratory infections.
Doctors also shared about the 90-90-90 concept, introduced by the United Nation’s Program on HIV/AIDS in 2013. The idea is that by 2020, 90 percent of all people living with HIV will become aware of their HIV status, 90 percent of people diagnosed with HIV will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy, and 90 percent of those receiving antiretroviral will be virally suppressed. Viral suppression is when a person’s viral load, or the amount of virus in a HIV-positive person’s blood, is reduced to an undetectable level.
19 children born from HIV/AIDS patients
To date, 13 women living with HIV have given birth to 19 children in Mongolia, according to doctor P.Tumendemberel.
He assured that these children have been tested negative for HIV/AIDS.
Doctors stated that the personal information of HIV/AIDS patients and their family will not be disclosed and that they will be kept under strict confidentiality.
80 percent of male HIV/AIDS patients are homosexual men
“Based on studies, men accounted for 80 percent of people living with HIV. The majority of these men, specifically around 80 percent, are gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men,” reported D.Myagmardorj, executive director of Zaluus Eruul Mend (Youth Health) NGO.
According to doctor E.Erdenetungalag, 0.4 to 0.8 percent of all men of reproductive age, specifically aged between 15 and 49, in Mongolia have sex with other men.
The Youth Health is currently helping gay, bisexual and transgender men who are globally considered the most vulnerable to HIV infections get tested and receive treatment on a regular basis if tested positive for the virus.
“Most transmittable diseases are common among men in sexual minority groups in large Asian cities. The reason I’m highlighting these people is that they are most prone to social discrimination. Due to outdated attitudes towards homosexuality, these people are often left out of public services. Most of them avoid going to hospitals because they fear doctors will discriminate them,” D.Myagmardorj stated. “We can reduce the occurrence of common diseases among homosexual people by eliminating discriminations, accepting people’s preferences, and ensuring their equal rights.”