Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Combating the HIV/AIDS Timor-Leste (KNKS-TL) Daniel Marçal said HIV was a significant threat for the country’s human resources in the future.

KNKS-TL Daniel Marçal said HIV was a significant threat for the country’s human resources in the future.

He said new cases of HIV transmission were increasing among Timor’s population, which was at 1,167, 242 million according to the 2016 household census.

He expressed concern that most communities, especially in remote areas, did not have good knowledge or background information about prevention.

“Our culture does not give us the advantage of talking freely to communities about sex education [and] this is a big risk,” he said at the prevention education campaign at the Ministry of Interior.

He said the language barrier was another big problem faced by the commission when raising awareness in rural communities because many people did not have a good level of understanding of Tetum or English.

“It is very difficult for us to explain to communities about the human reproductive system and its function using mother tongue [languages] and we have a limited vocabulary in Tetum also,” he said.

However, he said the commission continued to make efforts to explain to communities about HIV transmission and prevention methods.

He said the commission also planned to sign a MoU with its Indonesian counterpart to launch a campaign in high risk areas along the border between the two countries.

Based on national data from the Ministry of Health, 600 people were registered as HIV positive and 75 people died between 2003 and July 2016. However, that number had increased to 642 cases and 80 deaths by the end of December 2016.

Of those 642 cases, 60% were aged between 25 and 44, 28% were between the ages of 15 and 24, while 8% were aged over 45, 3% under 5 years of age and 1% were aged between 6 and 14.

Meanwhile, head of the Ministry of Health’s HIV/AIDS Program Dr Frederico Bosco said everyone had a responsibility to protect themselves from the virus.

“Even if the ministry may has a good policy in place, if no-one takes steps to prevent the virus then it is difficult to combat it,” he said.

He therefore called on those who already had a good knowledge about HIV to share information with others so that more people were aware of the risks.

Although there is no cure for HIV, he said there were now drugs available at health facilities across the country which helped to extend life expectancy.