HIV/AIDS ravages mountainous district of Nghệ An

Update: October, 17/2018 - 07:00
A patient cries when recalling her story of catching the HIV/AIDS virus in Na Nhắng Village, Quế Phong District in central Nghệ An Province. Quế Phong has seen a wave of HIV/AIDS infection in the past several years. — Photo
Viet Nam News

NGHỆ AN — More than two per cent of the entire population of a mountainous district of central Nghệ An Province are carrying the HIV/AIDS virus.

Health officials say there has been an alarming increasing in the number of young people testing positive, causing panic among locals.

More than 1,540 HIV-positive cases have been reported in the remote mountainous district of Quế Phong which consists of 13 communes and one town.

There have also been 462 people who died of full-blown AIDS related illnesses.

It is estimated around 65,000 people live in Quế Phong.

Tiền Phong commune has the most cases, with 412 people testing positive in 23 villages, of those 44 lost their lives.

Out of those carrying the virus, ten are under the age of 15.

Lương Thị Kiên, medical practitioner in Tiền Phong Commune’s health centre told Tuổi Trẻ (Youth) newspaper the reason of the HIV epidemic in the commune was through drug use among men.

But she said there are a number of women carrying the virus, many of them unaware they are.

A 17-year-old girl in Na Cày Village came to ask Kiên about her open sores and ulcers – one characteristic feature of acute HIV infection. Kiên guided the girl to the district’s AIDS preventive centre for tests.

It was believed she had contracted the virus from her drug-addicted husband.

Another victim, Hà Thị Tình, from Tạng Village, tested positive a year ago along with her twin sons who contracted the virus from their mother.

Tình said her husband worked far from the village. She came to the district’s health centre for Antiretroviral drugs (ARV) for treatment every month and traveled more than 200 kilometres to the central Paediatrics Hospital to get the drugs for her children.

Võ Khánh Toàn, chairman of the communal People’s Committee said the evacuation of more than 1,000 people living near Hủa Na Hydro-power Plant to the commune had caused a wave of HIV/AIDS to the community.

Mường Noọc Commune ranks second with infected people. About 230 cases were reported in 16 villages. The commune recorded 107 deaths due to HIV-related diseases so far.    

Quang Văn Phương, chairman of the communal People’s Committee said there were eight hot spots of drug injection in the commune.

Other communes, including Châu Kim and Quế Sơn, have recorded high numbers, 110 and 149 respectively.

Trương Thị Tuyết Mai, vice chairwoman of Quế Phong District’s People’s Committee said the reason of the HIV/AIDS storm was drug injection, unsafe sex and mother-to-children transmission.

The first patient was discovered in Châu Kim Commune in 1999, and the virus spread quickly. Since 2011, the amount of new cases has constantly risen.

The withdrawal of five projects on HIV/AIDS prevention and control has made the situation worse. Measures on curbing the epidemic, including the establishment of communal-based healthcare and peer educators equipped with skills and the groups of doctors, medical practitioners and technicians who came to give tests and treatment to patients in remote areas, have no longer implemented.

The management on HIV-positive people was not an easy task as most worked far from the province. The province has conducted education and consultancy for HIV/AIDS patients, but more measures should be done, including the curbing of drug injection and the approach of local people on healthcare services to get timely tests and treatment, she said. — VNS