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DOH: 20 new HIV cases reported daily

The number of persons with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) in the Philippines is increasing at an alarming rate, an official of the Department of Health revealed Wednesday.

"[In] 2008 we got one case every day. In 2010, we got four cases every day and 2012, nine cases every day. So every two years halos nag-do-double. In 2015—that is, up to February this year—we get 20 new HIV positive cases a day," Assistant Secretary Dr. Paulyn Jean Rosell Ubial said in a press conference Wednesday.

According to the DOH, the increase is due to low testing rates among populations that are at risk.

The department noted that in the 2013 National Demographic Health Survey, only 2% of women aged 14-49 have been tested for HIV and have been made aware of their HIV status.

In its surveillance study, the DOH found that only 8% of males who have sex with males (MSM) have voluntarily accessed HIV testing services and know the result. Among male sex workers, only 15.2% have been tested and are aware of their status. The surveillance result for transgenders who are sex workers is an underwhelming 5.4%, while for people who inject drugs, only 6.3% were found to have been tested for HIV.

As of February 2015, the DOH has reported a total of 23,709 confirmed HIV cases since it started its survey in 1984.

There were 646 new recorded cases in February 2015, of which:

  • 28% are aged 15-24;
  • 51% are aged 25-34; and
  • 96% are males.

The Health Department stressed that testing is confidential, in response to social stigma and fear of being exposed being the major concerns that hold people back from having themselves tested.

Free HIV testing from May 11 to 15

The DOH also announced that starting this year, May 11 to May 15 will be National HIV Testing Week as part of efforts to heighten awareness on Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV.

Thirty-nine social hygiene clinics all over the country will conduct confidential and free HIV testing.

Those who are sexually active, practice unprotected sex, share needles, and/or have undergone blood transfusions are encouraged to have themselves tested.

Health authorities anticipate an increase in confirmed cases after National HIV Testing Week (May 11 to May 15).

"We are looking at a figure of a 10- to 20-percent increase in cases," DOH Program Manager for the National AIDS/STI Prevention and Control Program Dr. Gerard Belimac said.

According to DOH spokesperson Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy, the objective of the program is to inform Persons Living with HIV that there are government services for them such as free Anti-RetroViral drugs therapy.

At present, 9,113 PLHIV are enrolled for ARV therapy.

Lee Suy said the DOH can accommodate additional cases for ARV therapy enrolment: "Ang enrollee natin is 9,000 plus. Ang preparation natin is nasa 15, nakahanda," he said. — BM, GMA News

To locate social hygiene centers nearest you, call any of the following 24/7 hotlines: (02) 256-3472; (0915)198-6978; (0922) 635-0270; (0936) 183-8963; and (0919) 638-5401.