Reported Cases of HIV-Infection Increases 140% in Philippines

The Philippines has the highest growth rate of HIV-infection in the Asia-Pacific in the past 6 years, with a 140% increase in the number of new infections, according to Reuters.
 
The health ministry and the United Nations cited data from UNAIDS during a news conference Tuesday, revealing 10,500 Filipinos were living with HIV at the end of 2016. The figure is a significant increase from 4300 in 2010, Reuters reported.
 
In May 2017 alone, 1098 new cases of HIV were reported in the Philippines––the highest recorded number of cases since infections were first reported in 1984.
 
To fight the epidemic, Health Minister Paulyn Ubial encouraged voluntary HIV testing and use of condoms.
 
Eamonn Murphy, UNAIDS regional support team director for Asia-Pacific, told Reuters the country could still end the public health threat by 2030 if the government redirects its focus to locations with the highest risk.
 
Men who have sex with men (MSM) have the highest risk of HIV, with 83% of new HIV cases occurring among MSM and transgender women who have sex with males.
 
“We’re not talking about those that are openly gay,” Genesis Samonte, head of the health ministry’s public health surveillance department, said during a news conference, reported by Reuters. “Any male who has sex with another male for whatever reason, is at risk.”
 
The data showed that 2 of every 3 HIV infections were among men aged 15 to 24 years. This subpopulation has insufficient awareness of HIV, in addition to the symptoms of the virus, and treatment, according to Samonte, as reported by Reuters.
 
Furthermore, most of the men had their first sexual encounter at 16 years of age; but did not get tested for HIV until 8 years later.
 
In response to this record high of new HIV infections, the Philippines has initiated a 2-year pilot project offering pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to 200 MSM and transgender women.
 
“This is the first time PrEP is being offered in the Philippines, this is very exciting,” Danvic Rosadino from Love Yourself, an LGBT group involved in the project, told Reuters. “With the continued rise in new HIV cases, this is really timely and relevant. All interventions regarding HIV preventions should be made available in the Philippines.”
 
The project has received 600 applications, thus far, according to Rosadino, as reported by Reuters. Thirty volunteers have already passed the screening tests and started taking the free, oral, daily PrEP pill.
 
The pilot project is supported by the New York-based Foundation for AIDS Research and the World Health Organization, Reuters reported.
 
 
 


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