A total of 106 new HIV/AIDS cases have been reported since 2014, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Health on Sunday.

This brings the total number of HIV/AIDS patients in Brunei to 199, suggesting an “overall increase in the general trend” said the newly-appointed Minister of Health YB Dato Paduka Dr Hj Md Isham Jaafar.

In a media statement issued to mark World AIDS Day, which falls on December 1 every year, the minister said that it is likely that  increased risky behaviours have contribute to this rise.

“This is alarming considering that HIV is entirely preventable.”

Better screening and awareness of HIV has also lead to more accurate reporting of the number of cases locally, he acknowledged.

During a forum at the Ministry of Health (MoH) to mark World AIDS Day, Dr Norashinkin Hj Mohd Fadillah, a medical officer at the ministry’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, revealed that most new HIV infections are in young patients aged 25-29 , with 27 new cases recorded in 2017 alone.

The health minister said the key to eliminating this threat is for Bruneians to understand that HIV is preventable.

“This year’s [World AIDS Day] theme, ‘My Health. My Right’, reminds us that the right to health is more than just access to quality health services and medicines. It also depends on a range of important assurances including education and health literacy in order to empower individuals to make healthy choices for themselves.”

Dato Dr Hj Md Isham encouraged people to not be afraid to get tested, adding that there are laws to protect their privacy under the Infectious Disease Act.

“It is the law in Brunei Darussalam… to protect the confidentiality of a person who tests positive for HIV.”

“If you are concerned about acquiring HIV, speak to a healthcare professional at your health centre or clinic. You should not feel anxious about coming forward to request an HIV test. Similar to other medical conditions such as diabetes, patient confidentiality is a key cornerstone of our health service.”

Anyone who is sexually active is at risk of contracting HIV, but the ministry said their data identified groups that were at high-risk, including unfaithful partners and men who have sex with men. Other possible modes of transmission are sharing of infected needles and syringes, mother-to-child transmission, and receiving HIV infected blood transfusion.

The minister said the commemoration of World AIDS Day is an opportunity to take stock of Brunei’s progress in reaching the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of ending the AIDS epidemic.

“We will continue to engage the public and all relevant stakeholders including non-government organisations (NGOs) such as the Brunei Darussalam AIDS Council towards empowering the public in prevention of HIV/AIDS as well as other sexually transmitted infections (STIs),” he said.

Ministry of Health Infographic to mark World AIDS Day 2017.