Situation of the HIV & AIDS Epidemic in the Philippines

Source: PNAC (Philippine National Aids Council) Feb 2010 

The DOH-NEC noted 4,424 HIV positive cases in the country since the first documented case in 1984 to the end of 2009. For 2009 alone, there were 832 HIV positive cases recorded in the Philippine National AIDS Registry. To date, an average of about two (2) new HIV cases are reported per day in the Philippines. The Health Department warns that this number only represents the tip of the iceberg from the actual number of cases since some may be unaware of their status or some are still not reporting their infection due to the stigma attached to the disease.

Who in the population are most affected?
Anyone who engages in behaviors, such as:
1.having multiple sex partners;
2.practice of unprotected penetrative sex (Vaginal, Anal or Oral) without the use of a condom; and,
3.injecting drug use and sharing injecting equipment
are considered most-at-risk and has the highest possibility to contract the disease.

Specifically, population groups who are considered most-at-risk are:
1.people in prostitution and their clients;
2.injecting drug users;
3.males having unprotected sex with other males; and,

4.people who are practicing unprotected sex and peculiar sexual practices such as anal sex.
On the other hand, several segments of the populations are considered vulnerable due to the nature of their work and exposure to several unique environments. These are OFWs and young people.

Should the Filipinos be alarmed with this situation?

Yes, the number of cases doubled in about two years. From one (1) new case reported every day in 2007 to two (2) new cases per day in 2009. It is also increasing in parallel to urbanizing communities.

How has the Government addressed the Situation?

1.Emphasize targeted prevention practices (information campaign, safer skills like negotiation skill, access to commodities and services, vulnerability reduction and empowerment)
2.Focus on most at RISK populations (esp. freelance Female Sex Workers and Men having Sex with Men and Person Who Injects Drug)
3.Partner with LGUs develop their local response on STI, HIV and AIDS through the provision of technical assistance
4.Prioritise intervention actions in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, Metro Davao
5.Inform high level PNAC members to formulate appropriate action
6.Formulation of a PNAC Communication and Advocacy Plan
7.Intensify partnership with NGOs and LGUs

8.Conduct a geographic mapping to determine most at risk and vulnerable areas for STI and HIV in the Country

Since 1988, a multi-sectoral approach to HIV and AIDS has been the main mechanism of the country. This means that a systematic interaction between several sectors of the society (including local and international stakeholders – from the line agencies of the government, the civil society, the academe, faith-based groups, and specific sectors of labor, the community of HIV positives, and the international community) are moving to target the multi-faceted concerns of HIV and AIDS prevention and control.

Republic Act 8504 or the AIDS law reinforced this mechanism and formalized these engagements by setting-up structures as part of the national response to HIV and AIDS. Work is continuous at various levels and targeted at specific beneficiaries.

Who else should be involved in addressing the HIV Epidemic?

Intensifying the campaign at various levels of collaboration can help significantly in reinforcing education of the people about prevention and control measures. On the program and services-delivery side, both the national and local government and specific sectors of the Philippine society have mandated duties to fulfill in order to halt and reverse the spread of HIV and AIDS in the country. More importantly, individual responsibility over their health is the most important.

What should Filipinos do in face of this epidemic?

HIV and AIDS is considered as a global pandemic and its impact is both a biomedical as well as a social issue in the country and worldwide. This alarm should be transformed to behavior change and accountability of one’s actions – taking charge of our own sexual health is required from all of us.

Each should take an active part by accessing reliable information from valid sources – such as members of the Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC) and advocacy and services groups in this line. Becoming more self-aware and responsible in terms of handling sexual relations are also vital to ensure a protected population. The role of family and parental guidance with strong Filipino virtues/values are significant prevention efforts starting from home.

What is the HIV test? How could one avail of the test?

HIV can be detected through the HIV Antibody test - an indirect test measures the response of one’s body to the presence of HIV. This test is given for free in government health service delivery units. There are also private initiatives supporting this line of advocacy.

By Law (R.A. 8504), HIV TESTING IS VOLUNTARY, CONFIDENTIAL AND ANONYMOUS. The test requires pre and post-test counseling. A test may yield negative during the first three (3)- six (6) month after the infection due to the phase of HIV infection where the body has not produced adequate anti-body against the virus to be detected by such test. To this end, anyone who underwent HIV testing must repeat the test after six (6) months. During this period, the person must refrain from practicing any risky behaviours.

There is NO vaccine and NO cure for HIV. Anti-retroviral medication (ARVs) may only slow down the replication of the virus.

Who should be tested for HIV?
Anyone may submit for HIV testing, particularly those who engage in behaviors, such as:
1.Having multiple sex partners;
2.Practice of unprotected penetrative sex (vaginal, anal or oral) without the use of a condom; and/or
3.Injecting drug use and sharing injecting equipment.

What will happen to people who find out they're HIV positive?

An HIV positive individual must take cooperate with support groups and service providers to ensure that his/her health and immediate family and community are well-protected from complications and mitigate the disease’ impact in his/her life. Person Living with HIV and AIDS (PLHIV) must seek assistance from designated health facilities and support groups who can assist the individual and his/her family copes with the disease. The overarching goal of the national response is to aid the PLHIVs continue on with their lives as normal as possible, still be productive, and not to be discriminated against in Philippine society.

Where should people go for more information on HIV and AIDS?

They can access local information online via; Department of Health, members of PNAC, and support groups and advocates nationwide. They can also call the following numbers for support and related information:

-San Lazaro Hospital 743 3776 – 8 loc 212
-STI and AIDS Cooperative Laboratory (SACCL) 309 9528 – 9 loc 206
-PNAC Secretariat 743 8512
-Department of Health- National STI,HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Program (NASPCP)
743 8301locals 2350 – 2352

Or the nearest Social Hygiene Clinics, Treatment Hubs, and Information and Counseling Centers by government and civil society organizations.

How could mass media help in addressing the HIV epidemic?

Dissemination of accurate information is vital for the success of the campaign, to demystify the myths and to fight spread of stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV. Behavior change can also be achieved by educating the public and the specific sectors of society and enabling them to take charge of their own health. Collaboration with the specific service delivery units is also vital for the success of the prevention and control program.


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