Following series of predictions given to the estimate in the rise of HIV cases in the Philippines, Department of Health (DOH) released the latest statistics of HIV in the Philippines with a score of 492 new cases last November 2014.The rate is 28 percent higher compared to last year’s 384 cases. The record of this year totaled to 5,502 new cases, amounting to a total of 22,208 cases since the disease was first detected in the country on 1984.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection is basically an infection that attacks the own defenses of the body or the immune system. The virus has the capacity to replicate itself and copy the body’s cells so it will take some time before it is detected. As a result, the infected individual becomes more susceptible to opportunistic infections like pneumonia, tuberculosis, and skin infections. As of now, the current treatment is directed towards prevention and controlling the spread of the disease, primarily through practicing safe sex and needle-exchange programs. Although there is no cure yet or any vaccine available, anti-retroviral drugs are administered but these drugs can only slow the progression of the infection, allowing infected individuals to lead a normal life as much as possible.
While it didn’t surpassed the prediction of around 30,000 cases by the end of 2014, Philippines was still recognized by World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the 8 countries with increasing number of cases last August 2014. In addition to that, according to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the country is ‘one of only 7 countries with cases upped by 25%.’
Records show that the three most common mode of transmission include homosexual and bisexual contact, sharing needles by intravenous drug users, and mother to child transmission. Two-thirds of cases was acquired through sexual contact and the age group with the highest prevalence rate is the 15-to-24 age group. With the recorded age of 14-19 as age range for introduction to sex and drugs, DOH now reports a total of 16 cases per day, compared to last year’s 12. Majority of these cases are from NCR, Calabarzon, Central Visayas, Central Luzon, and Davao.
What is the take of the government in this issue? The government allocated a budget of 308 M to address the rapid rate of HIV in the Philippines. According to DOH, 11 M of this will be spent for providing free access to condoms as part of the government’s advocacy on safe sex practices. They also have determined 75 priority areas as target to immediate HIV interventions. In addition to this, Philippines and UNICEF partnered in devising a plan called Philippine AIDS Medium Term Plan. It has four major actions in controlling the spread of HIV. These steps are the following: 1) National HIV Strategy Framework for Children and Young People, which is centered at prevention of HIV transmission; 2) Behavior Change Program, which includes advocating having one sexual partner and use of condoms; 3) health education about HIV prevention among high school students; and 4) including HIV screening and education as part of antenatal care for pregnant women.
Based on the trend, the rate continues to rise as years go by. While other countries are successful in lowering HIV rates and despite government’s rigorous job in raising HIV awareness, Philippines still remains one of the countries with a potential for higher than expected number of HIV cases. However with raised awareness, proper education, mutual participation and discipline, HIV can be controlled and prevented.