The Disease Control Department of the Ministry of Public Health in Thailand has launched a new online tool to provide both officials and the public with frequently updated information on HIV/AIDS in the country.
The site, AIDS Zero Portal, was created Thailand’s National AIDS Committee, with the help of UNAIDS. An infographic on the home page notes that the portal aims to provide “priority key and strategic information, key program gaps for improvement, [and]geographical prioritization that will accelerate progress towards global and national targets.”
According to Gay Asia News, in 2013 it was found that over 246,000 people in Thailand were on a regimen of antiretroviral therapy—but it is estimated that 460,000 people in the nation are living with HIV, and not all of them are aware of it.
Currently, Thailand sees about 8,200 new HIV infections annually, and about 21,000 related deaths. Studies have shown that 66 percent of those new infections are occurring in thirty-three of Thailand’s seventy-two provinces, and nearly 25 percent of new infections occur in Bangkok, the nation’s capital and most populous city.
Research has shown that in Thailand, the populations most impacted by HIV are IV drug users, sex workers and their customers, and men who have sex with men (MSM)—altogether, the three groups account for over 60 percent of Thailand’s new HIV infections.
The director of the National Aids Management Centre, Dr. Taweesap Sirapaprasiri, told Gay Asia News, “By accessing real-time data on the go, health professional can monitor the progress of programs and quickly adapt to changing needs.
“Almost Bt9 billion was spent on the HIV response in 2013 but only 16 per cent of that went towards a prevention program. The portal will help better target our budgets and maximize their impact to reach people in need with sufficient coverage.”
The AIDS Zero Portal is intended to show complex data in a manner that is easy to understand, allowing program directors and policy makers to more effectively direct their funding, target services, track their progress, and identify areas in need of improvement.
According to the Ministry of Public Health, the percentage of people living with HIV within Thailand’s gay community has risen considerably over the last decade, going from 17 percent in 2003 to 29 percent in 2011. In some demographics, the numbers are even worse—according to the community-based nonprofit Bangkok Rainbow Organization, 31.1 percent of Bangkok’s transgender and MSM population are HIV-positive.
The UNAIDS Country Director for Thailand, Tatiana Shoumilina, emphasized the importance of making complete, up-to-date information on the issue readily available to everyone: “The key to getting to zero is delivering HIV programs where the epidemic is and tailoring services to the needs of key affected population, so that no one is left behind.”