MANILA — With a current population of over 106 million people, HIV in the Philippines continues to be a growing epidemic with an average of 68,000 individuals — including children — living with HIV.
Reducing HIV in the Phillipines
The Philippines is now the fastest-growing HIV epidemic in Southeast Asia and in the world, reporting to have about 1,021 new HIV/AIDS-infected people in January 2018, according to the University of the Philippines. HIV/AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP) also reveal that 17 percent of those newly infected individuals have signs of advanced infection. Luckily, Philippine governments are taking action to reduce HIV in the Philippines.
In August 2018, a government organization called the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) signed a partnership with UNAIDS in order to fast track the reduction of the number of new HIV/AIDS infections within the country. UNAIDS states that for the past seven years, annual new infections have more than doubled, totaling to about 12,000 in 2017. Since 80 percent of populations in 70 cities report HIV cases, LCP and local governments in the Philippines are taking direct action regarding this epidemic by pledging to eradicate this disease.
Combatting the Epidemic
According to Laarni L. Cayetano, the National Chair of LCP, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Philippines is definitely an issue, stating it “‘needs urgent action among local governments, especially since key populations at risk of infections reside mostly in cities.'”
The Philippines are already beginning to address this issue by implementing more innovative HIV prevention clinics. Quezon City, for example, has not only increased HIV funding since 2012, but they also have been providing rapid HIV testing and counseling for those who are infected, opening up three clinics in the process.
The Department of Health (DOH) launched a tri-beauty pageant, specifically a “Lhive Free Campaign” in Quezon City in order to advocate the prevention of HIV/AIDS among youth. With DOH’s desire to reduce HIV in the Philippines, this campaign serves as a message of hope to the people as they provide free medications for those infected.
Beauty Queen and actress Kylie Verzosa, who was crowned Miss International in 2016 and currently a DOH ambassador, also supports this campaign and pageant. Although Verzosa is a mental health advocate, she urges the public to be aware of HIV/AIDS and promote the prevention of the infection. She sees HIV as a physical, emotional and mental health concern, considering that depression and anxiety can be developed in an HIV patient struggling to live with this condition.
Partnerships for Change
The DOH and World Health Organization (WHO) in the Philippines previously held free anonymous HIV screenings in the workplace for 400 DOH staff members. They provided eight different stations, including a few in the Disease Prevention and Control Bureau and the Philippine National AIDS Council Secretariat. These resources not only help promote HIV/AIDS testing as a strategy to fight against this epidemic, but it is also important for DOH staff members to know their own HIV status.
Other departments and organizations work to help decrease the HIV/AID epidemic in the Philippines. Dr. Edsel Maurice T. Salvana, the director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at the University of the Philippines, reports that the NIH is researching and working on changing the molecular epidemiology of HIV. The NIH is offering a variety of services for those infected in this country such as HIV drug resistance testing and genotyping, which shoudl help to end the further increase of the disease.
Road to Improvement
The Human Rights Watch also provided recommendations regarding the government’s approach to reduce HIV in the Philippines. According to researcher Carlos H. Conde, they suggest implementing further HIV prevention education within schools, and reinitializing harm reduction programs that focus on the injecting drug use issue in Cebu City.
The LCP partnership with UNAIDS serves as an opportunity and a push to help end the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic in this country. As governments vow to reduce HIV in the Philippines, the improvement of health in the country and in the people will increase substantially. Advocating and addressing this issue will not only acquire Filipino people to seek the available treatment, but it can also prevent any further HIV/AIDS illnesses in the Philippines and in the future.
– Charlene Frett