Report suggests higher incidence of H.I.V.

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu ,

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“Men in particular may be more vulnerable to HIV exposure than women, due to their lower age of first sexual intercourse, and higher rates of having first intercourse before the age of 15, both of which are risk factors for H.I.V.” 

This is according to the Ministry of Health’s sixth annual report to UNAIDS. 

Obtained by the Samoa Observer, this report is evidence of Samoa’s commitment to the global response to HIV, AIDS, and Sexual Transmitted Infection’s. 

The report says, the first case of HIV recorded in Samoa was in 1990. “Since that time, the recorded prevalence of the virus has remained low in prevalence (0.005%) with no new cases being captured between 2012-2015". 

“However, testing rates are low with around only 4 to 5% of the population being tested each year according to quarterly surveillance reports (see Table 2). 

Other STI’s, particularly Chlamydia, are high in prevalence (26%) with low testing rates.” 

The report points out that most of those tests come from routine antenatal blood panels in mothers having their first antenatal care visit. “Voluntary testing, and testing in males are low. 

“For these reasons, the full impact of HIV/AIDS on Samoa remains relatively unknown,” the report said.

The report pointed out that a quarter of the documented HIV cases are mother to child transmissions, which suggests that HIV may be more prevalent than what current surveillance systems are detecting. 

“All documented living cases are currently receiving ARV treatment, which is free at all health sector partners of the Ministry of Health.” 

According to the Health report as of 2016 there were 24 cumulative cases of HIV in Samoa and 11 of these cases are currently living. “All are recorded as adhering to ARV regimens. “The primary mode of transmission of HIV in Samoa is heterosexual sex. 

“Results from the 2008 Second Generation Surveillance Survey reveal that HIV in Samoa occurs at a rate of 10.4 cases per 100,000 with a male to female ratio of Surveillance data is currently gathered from hospital records on Upolu and Savaii, Private provider offices, health clinics, Immigration, various NGO’s, Samoa Family Health Association, and from blood donors. 

“However funding and staffing shortages at all of these organizations has limited the amount and frequency of data that can be collected for HIV and other STI’s.” 

Regarding HIV prevention and knowledge of HIV and AIDS, the Demographic Health Survey 2014 found that condom use (of male condoms) is low, although higher in males. Though increasing, the percent of individuals that have comprehensive knowledge of HIV and AIDS transmission/prevention is still low. 

“Regarding the acceptance of persons living with HIV or AIDS only 2.6% of women and 3.3% of men express acceptance of PLWHA on all 4 indicators. 

“This has remained roughly the same since 2009. 

“This illustrates the stigma that is still associated with HIV and AIDS and previous programming, has not been effectively addressed. 

“Though Samoa has a low prevalence of HIV and good case management of the identified cases of PLWHIV, there are multiple findings that suggest HIV in particular could potentially be a bigger problem for Samoa.” 

In 2015 there was a low testing rate of 4.6% of the population being tested in hospitals and clinics. 

“Of women who have given birth in the past two years, only 23.9% have received HIV counselling in prenatal care visits, and only 4.1% percent received counselling, testing, and testing results, suggesting high risk for mother-to-child infections,” said the Health’s report. 

© Samoa Observer 2016

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