Country Context: HIV in Bhutan
Bhutan is classified as a low prevalence country for HIV. The estimated number of people living with HIV (PLHIV ) is 1 265. Of these people, 47% (594) are aware of their positive status, and 34% (430) were enrolled in lifelong Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART).
Thimphu accounts for 49% of detected cases, while Chukka and Samdrupjongkhar on the Indian border, account for 21%.
There are generally no accepted size estimates for key populations and while services directed towards key populations do exist, the coverage is very limited.
Save the Children Bhutan
The Save the Children Bhutan Program was established in 1982 following a mutual agreement with the Royal Government of Bhutan. Initial operations centred around a community-based program in Edi (Zhemgang) involving the establishment of a pre-school, a health post, an 18km mule track, a community centre, a suspension bridge, safe drinking water supply and immigration canals. From these humble beginnings, the Save the Children Bhutan’s work has flourished into a strong and collaborative partnership between the Royal Government of Bhutan, local NGOs and other partners, delivering financial support and technical assistance in services related to children.
Save the Children’s global work in the HIV/AIDS sector is well-documented. The Bhutan Program has been directly involved in a variety of programs and projects engaging with and advocating for key populations, and have contributed to raising awareness of HIV on the national agenda. Specific examples of this work include:
Continuously working to to elevate the representation of key populations in the Global Fund’s local country-coordinating mechanism and in various national technical working groups.
Directly supporting Bhutan’s only PLHIV group to secure land for an organic farming fundraising project (2018-2019)
Involved in implementing HIV prevention for key populations alongside the national HIV response and engaged in country-wide advocacy campaign to amend Section 213 and 214 of the Bhutan Penal Code (pertaining to sodomy) and addressing related social and structural barriers