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HIV prevention pill now available in the PHL

A pill that prevents the spread of human immunodeficiency virus or HIV within the body is now available in the Philippines!

According to Izzy Lee's report on Stand for Truth Tuesday, the HIV prevention pill is called the pre-exposure prophylaxis pill or prEP, and it has proven to prevent HIV infection by more than 90%.

The Philippines is one of the countries with the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world. According to the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the Philippines is projected to have over 201,000 HIV cases by 2025, compared to the 56,000 cases back in 2016.

Two out of three HIV infections also belong in the 15 to 24 age bracket, said UNAIDS.

According to the report, HIV can be transmitted through body fluids, sexual contact, blood transfusion and sharing of needles. It can also be passed on from mother to child.

The virus can kill the body's immune system which helps fight against infection and diseases. Having HIV is a life-long condition and may develop into AIDS, also known as the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

Venereologist Dr. Gilbert Yang said, "Before you get exposed to something, to HIV, iinumin nila ito [prEP pill]. Ang prep ay iniinom seven days before contact, once a day and you can continue taking it as long as you want."

Marvin Frondoza, an individual who has been taking the pill for a year already, said that he discovered the medication through the non-government organization Love Yourself.

After visiting Love Yourself's website and signing up for their prEP program, Marvin was able to receive all the information needed regarding the pill, from the clinics that you can visit to the price of the prEP pills.

However, Dr. Yang said that the pill has to be prescribed by a doctor and can't be bought over the counter.

"Kasi anti-bacterial, anti-viral [kaya] hindi nabibili over the counter. This develops resistance if taken the wrong way. It has side effects. Prep sometimes causes an upset stomach. It can cause a bit of loss."

Aside from the prEP program, Love Yourself also offers free laboratory tests to check if the individual is already HIV positive or not. Once you're HIV positive, the prEP pill won't work anymore.

However, Dr. Yang said that there is also the pill called post-exposure prophylaxis pill that helps stop the spread of HIV within your body after being exposed.

He said, "If you got exposed to someone with HIV or if you had sexual contact with whom you don't know, you can take this pill within 72 hours from the high risk behavior. It prevents HIV by 95%."

According to the Love Yourself program manager Danvic Rosadino, the pill isn't just a way to avoid HIV but is also an empowerment tool that allows you to engage into a sexual behavior knowing that you are safe.

"It can empower someone like me," Frondoza said. "'Pag nagmahal ka dapat 'yung tao 'yung minamahal mo. Walang if's, walang but's. PrEP can help you build a more meaningful relationship and look beyond the HIV status of an individual."

According to the report, a prEP bottle good for 30 days costs around 1,500 to 2,400 pesos. — Kaela Malig/LA, GMA News