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Philippines warned vs. new wave of HIV infections amid COVID-19 crisis

A new wave of the HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infections might spread in the Philippines if the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic continues to impede country’s access to medical services against  AIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS said.

According to Sandra Aguinaldo’s report on “24 Oras”, UNAIDS warned that a second wave of the HIV epidemic might occur in the Philippines if the COVID-19 pandemic continues to block the country’s access to medical resources such as testing  and other treatment services.

The group LoveYourself Inc. said it is continuing its advocacy to hand out free medicine to HIV/AIDS survivors despite the lockdown in some areas in Metro Manila.

LoveYourself Inc. executive director Dr. Ronivin Pagtakhan also said he is worried that HIV testing was halted amid the lockdown.

He said many Filipinos had not been tested with the illness for almost four months.

“The sad thing is the number of people that we test suffer so we were not able to test many people and sa regular day pa lang namin we test eight to 12 newly-diagnosed, How much more ngayon? I dont think we should call it as second wave because we were not able to fully manage the first one,” Pagtakhan said.

Moreover, he said LoveYourself Inc. has also distributed test kits for its clients so they can self-screen amid the health crisis.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the country’s stock of antiretroviral medicines for HIV  was enough to last until next year.

“The DOH has secured stocks of antiretroviral drugs for HIV up until next year. There is also still an ongoing procurement for this drug so we won’t have any shortages,” Vergeire said.

Based on the data of HIV/AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines, 78,069 Filipinos have been infected with AIDS in the country since 1984.

As of May 2020, a total of 187 were newly-diagnosed aged from 13 to 55 years old. -Ma. Angelica Garcia/NB, GMA News