Press Release

World AIDS Day

1 December 2020

PRESS RELEASE

 

2020 World AIDS Day:

UNFPA urges Timor-Leste to strengthen its HIV Prevention efforts to avoid generalized epidemic

 

Timor-Leste must adopt stronger HIV prevention policies to seize the small window of opportunity there still is to avoid a generalized HIV epidemic in the country.

Data from the Ministry of Health’s HIV Sentinel Surveillance Plus report, supported by WHO experts and published earlier this year, show a sharp increase in the prevalence of HIV and STIs among all population groups, but especially among pregnant women and STI patients, where it increased ten times when compared to the previous available data from 2013.

Among pregnant women, the sharpest growth in HIV prevalence was in girls aged 15-24 years.

In Timor-Leste, HIV is mainly transmitted through sex. Other routes may include transmission from an HIV positive mother to her baby; by sharing needles, syringes, or other drug injection equipment, or through blood transfusion.

The most effective way to prevent sexual transmission of HIV is to use a condom, correctly and consistently. Condoms, both male and female, are a critical component in a comprehensive and sustainable approach to the prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

To effectively stop HIV transmission, UNFPA thus echoes and urges the Ministry of Health to adopt and implement the recommendations of its own HIV Sentinel Surveillance Plus Report, by “actively promoting condoms for all, beyond key population groups and with an emphasis on youth, coupled with awareness raising of HIV prevention to the general population”.

Comprehensive HIV prevention efforts should continue among key population groups.

Condoms should be made widely available to all sexually active men and women, regardless of their age, and people should have the knowledge, skills and empowerment to use them correctly and consistently. This is particularly important in Timor-Leste, where comprehensive knowledge of HIV among youth, the age group most as risk, is extremely low (7.7 per cent among women and 14.6 per cent among men aged 15-24 years), and where stigma and discrimination is widespread and has been identified as the main barrier to HIV treatment.

Condom use remains complementary to all other HIV prevention methods, including PrEP and ART, the latter provided free of charge in Timor-Leste.

UNFPA is the United Nations sexual and reproductive health and rights agency. It works in more than 150 countries and territories, and in Timor-Leste since 2002.

For more information, please contact Mr. Ronny Lindstrom, UNFPA Representative in Timor-Leste: lindstrom@unfpa.org or by phone +670 331 2618.