By Charina Clarisse Echaluce
The Philippines is now the fastest growing human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) epidemic in Asia, the Department of Health (DOH) revealed, noting that most of the cases belong to the males having sex with males (MSM) population.
“A UN AIDS [United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS] Report on the global HIV epidemic states that the number of new infections in the Philippines has more than doubled in the past six years from an estimated 4,300 in 2010 to an estimated 10,500 in 2016. The Philippines has become the country with the fastest growing HIV epidemic in Asia and the Pacific, and has become one of eight countries that account for more than 85 percent of new HIV infections in the region,” Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial said in a press conference Tuesday.
In 2008, the number of people diagnosed with HIV per day was only one. It became four in 2010; nine in 2012; 17 in 2014; and 26 in 2016. At present, there are 29 persons being diagnosed with HIV every day.
Dr. Genesis Samonte of the DOH said there is now a need to slow down the rising epidemic in the country.
“The Philippines experienced 140 percent increase in new infections in the past six years [from 2010 to 2016]. We need to slow down our rising epidemic because we are number one in Asia. If we don’t halt this trajectory, we will be having 19,300 cases in 2022,” she stressed.
According to the DOH-Epidemilogy Bureau (DOH-EB), 80 percent of the infections are from the 117 high burden areas – including the National Capital Region and its surrounding provinces (Rizal, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Bulacan), Cebu Province, Davao, Tagum, CDO, Iligan, Zamboanga, General Santos, Koronadal, Butuan, Iloilo, Bacolod, Puerto Princesa, Tacloban, Naga, Lucena, Angeles, Mabalacat, Tarlac, San Fernando, Cabanatuan, Olongapo, and Baguio.
“Our problem with HIV is that it will not go away. It is a problem that the Philippines has to face head-on because we cannot close our eyes and think that we will not have new infections anymore. It will continue to increase and it will start to burden our health system it we don’t invest in prevention and treatment,” she said.
Samonte warned: “If we do not change what we are doing right now, we will hit 142,400 people living with HIV (PLHIV) in the Philippines by the end of 2022. Last year, when we ended it was 56,000. We will have 86,000 cases added to the number of PLHIV in five years time. That’s how fast the HIV epidemic is rising in the Philippines.”