The Philippines is one of a handful of countries that still see increases in the HIV globally, and the stats are startling.
Philippines health officials announced last week that the number of reported newly-diagnosed HIV cases in the country is increasing. From January this year to October, there are now a total of 6,552 individuals diagnosed with HIV. This is 37 times higher than the total number of people diagnosed with HIV for the entire year in 2001 (174) during the start of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
In 2000, 1 HIV case is diagnosed every three days. In 2015, 1 case of HIV is detected every hour.
In addition, HIV cases among males and transgender having sex with males have increased 10 times in the past five years. In fact, the country has breached the United Nations 5% threshold in this group. Five percent (5%) is the United Nations’ threshold to declare an area as having a concentrated epidemic.
From 1984-2009, the predominant mode of transmission was heterosexual sex. However in 2010, sharing of needles among people who inject drugs (PWID), and unprotected sex among males and transgender having sex with males, changed the epidemic scenario in the country.
HIV prevalence is now above 5% in eight cities in the country: Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Puerto Princesa, Mandaue, Davao, Quezon City, Paranaque and Makati. In Cebu, HIV prevalence is already at 14%.
The country is falling way short as far as condom use targets for high-risk groups like males having sex with males (MSMs). The target was 80%; however, health officials say they’ve only reached 44%.
This is blamed on a number of reasons to include unavailability to just plain rejecting to use them.
HIV prevalence in the 15-24 years age bracket is up a whopping 800 percent, health officials note.
The epidemic has prompted dire warnings from health officials: Health Secretary Janette P. Loreto-Garin said, “If we do not slow down our HIV epidemic, if we do not invest in preventing new HIV infections, the number of PLHIV will reach 133,000 by 2022”. In addition, she notes the economic cost and strain on PhilHealth, the country’s health insurance program, would be 4 billion PHP annually just for outpatient care.
The Philippine government has described the rate of HIV infection as “low and slow” for many years and the country is still classified as “low-prevalence” with less than 0.1% of the adult population being infected.
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