The Philippines joins other countries in marking World AIDS Day amid a worrisome development: three decades after it was first detected here, the affliction is crossing over to the general population.
This is according to the Philippine National AIDS Council, which noted that from the high-risk population segments of men having sex with men and people who inject drugs – MSM and PID – female sex workers were spreading the AIDS-causing human immunodeficiency virus to heterosexual males, who in turn were infecting partners.
Last month alone, the Department of Health registered 17 AIDS-related deaths in the country, bringing the total to 1,091 since 1984 when the DOH started keeping track of the disease. Of the 21,526 HIV cases in the Philippines since 1984, 5,010 were recorded only since the start of this year, with 1,971 of them progressing into full-blown AIDS.
So far the country has been spared the brunt of AIDS. Worldwide the disease has claimed over 39 million lives, with about 1.5 million of them dying last year. At the end of 2013, approximately 35 million people around the world were living with HIV, with 2.1 million of them new infections.
But the rise in HIV infection among MSM and PID in the Philippines, now compounded by a spike in transmission through female sex workers, shows that there is no room for complacency. The DOH is encouraging high-risk segments of the population to undergo regular testing for HIV. While there is no cure for the disease, antiretroviral drugs have been effective in prolonging the lives of those with HIV/AIDS, allowing them to remain productive.
Children in particular can benefit from early detection and treatment with antiretroviral drugs, but pediatric HIV treatment is much lower than the rate for adult patients. WHO records show that this trend is common worldwide.
With an effective information campaign, more resources and better public access to HIV intervention programs, lives can be saved and HIV transmission prevented. This year’s World AIDS Day theme is, “Focus, partner, achieve: an AIDS-free generation.” It need not be a pipe dream.
(Source: The Philippine Star)