On-site HIV testing of sex workers called failure

Friday, 29 August 2014 From Issue Vol. XXII No. 35 By  Urasin Khantaraphan

Pattaya public-health officials said their efforts to promote “voluntary counseling and testing” for HIV and AIDS in the city’s entertainment districts has been largely a failure, with too few participants and too few medical technicians to serve them.

At an Aug. 20 meeting to review July’s “VCT Day” on Soi 6, and plan future projects, meeting leader Ra-anya Jantrakas, a nurse with the Pattaya Public Health Department, heard that there have been many obstacles to success in sending teams out to test sex workers for HIV at their employers.

Dr. Somchai Sreepleanjan, medical officer of the ECHO research project, estimates Thailand has about 500,000 carriers of the HIV virus, but only half are aware they have it, due to insufficient testing.Dr. Somchai Sreepleanjan, medical officer of the ECHO research project, estimates Thailand has about 500,000 carriers of the HIV virus, but only half are aware they have it, due to insufficient testing.

The department previously informed club owners about their project, but the information wasn’t disseminated well enough, resulting in a low turnout. And most of those who knew of the testing event did not cooperate and take the test for reasons ranging from being scared of the result to shame.

Other problems included a lack of consultants and medical technicians, resulting in long waits and people leaving before being seen. And many who did stay provided insufficient information on their registration documents due to not understanding them.

Dr. Somchai Sreepleanjan, medical officer of the ECHO research project, estimated Thailand has about 500,000 carriers of the HIV virus, but only half are aware they have it, due to insufficient testing.

He noted that hospitals provide full testing, consultation and treatment services and advocated that more effort should be put into getting people to voluntarily get tested at these facilities through such activities as the annual AIDS Day.

This year’s theme for AIDS Day is “the six pros of HIV testing,” which include immediate treatment, improved health through treatment, protecting your partner, child and yourself, and increased knowledge of HIV and AIDS.

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