The Ministry of Health has advised that for the first time since 2012 two new cases of the H.I.V. virus has been detected in Samoa.
The two patients who tested positive to the virus—which over time can lead to the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (A.I.D.S.)—have begun treatment.
While more cases of sexually transmitted infections (S.T.I.) are being detected, the Ministry said the challenge to prevent new infections remains.
Statistics on current H.I.V. and S.T.I. cases in Samoa were recently released in the Ministry of Health’s HIV STI & TB Bulletin Volume 1. Issue 8, August 2018.
The rise in chlamydia (known locally as ma’i afi) in young people between the ages of 20-24 is also a cause for concern for the Ministry.
According to recently released data highlighted in the bulletin, in mid-2017 patients who tested positive for chlamydia was 20.70 per cent but that increased to 24.22 per cent in mid-2018. While there was a marked decrease in gonorrhea cases from 21.21 per cent in mid-2017 to 5.56 per cent mid-2018, there was an increase in syphilis cases from 0.73 per cent in mid-2017 to 1.04 per cent in mid-2018. There was no significant change in data recorded for Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.
The Ministry said in terms of people who tested positive for at least one S.T.I., these cases increased from 6,114 mid-year 2016 to 8,986 mid-year 2017 and represented a 47 per cent increase.
“This indicates great progress, as increasing voluntary testing is the best way to control S.T.I. rates. Testing links people to care and treatment. H.I.V. and syphilis testing are high, chlamydia and gonorrhea has greatly increased. The need for improving public awareness and access for testing services is on-going,” stated the Ministry.
The establishment of diagnostic technologies at the Malietoa Tanumafili II (MT2) Referral hospital in Savai’i last year and additional equipment for the Tupua Tamasese Meaole (TTM) National Hospital in Upolu has increased access to testing services for the public. Additionally, in 2016-2017 there was an increase in public awareness efforts on HIV, STI and TB which promoted voluntary testing, dialogue on sexual health to reduce stigma, and encouraged people to access treatment services.