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RP HIV/AIDS situation alarming; undocumented cases at 11,000 - solon

April 28, 2008 12:19pm
MANILA, Philippines - A lawmaker expressed alarm on Monday over what she described as "hidden and growing" number of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) cases in the country.

In a press statement posted on the House of Representatives website, Cebu Rep. Nerissa Corazon Soon-Ruiz said there is an estimated 11,000 undocumented and unreported HIV and AIDS cases in the country.

Ruiz said that the Department of Health's HIV and AIDS Registry reported only 2,857 HIV and IDA cases in the country from January 1984 to May 2007. She noted that in May 2007 alone, 35 cases were reported.

Data show that majority of the carriers are males, 25-39 years of age, and that the disease is predominantly transmitted through sexual intercourse.

"The incidence of HIV and AIDS in the Philippines can no longer be regarded as low and slow but rather, now it is hidden and growing... The alarming side of the story is the unreported and undocumented cases, now escalating to an estimated 11,000 cases," Ruiz said.

To help address this concern, Ruiz - a doctor by profession - said she filed House Bill 1389 which seeks to amend sections of R.A. 8504, "The Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act
of 1998."

The bill aims to enhance the existing HIV and AIDS information and educational program as well as its monitoring system in order to increase the Filipinos level of awareness of the problem, and proposes appropriate measure to support the HIV and AIDS carriers and their families by improving the existing support system.

The bill also seeks to provide an Augmentation Fund to increase the annual budget for the Philippine National Aids Council (PNAC), to make it a more financially and administratively autonomous attached agency of the Health Department.

In the statement, Ruiz underscored the need to urgently act on the problem, saying this could later prove costly for the government.

"Inaction could prove to be costly. Let's not wait for this crisis to become an epidemic," Ruiz said.

Ruiz said in its 2007 annual report, the UN AIDS Commission said that across Asia, an estimated 4.9 million people were living with HIV, including 440,000 newly infected in the past year.

About 300,000 died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2007, alone, she added.

Ruiz said based on the UN report, Southeast Asia having the highest prevalence of HIV in Asia, with Indonesia having the fastest rate of growth of HIV-infected people. - GMANews.TV