PH has fastest growing HIV infections in Asia — UN

By AFP, Futch Anthony Inso |August 02,2017 - 11:30 PM

The Philippines has the fastest growing number of HIV infections in Asia, a report by the United Nations and the government showed Tuesday.

The nation saw a 140 percent increase in new cases from 2010 to 2016, even though the annual number of new infections in Asia-Pacific declined by 13 percent over the same period, according to the report.

“The Philippines has a small window of opportunity to act now and stop a major HIV epidemic from taking hold,” Eamonn Murphy, director of UNAIDS Regional Support Team said in a statement.

He called on the government to focus anti-HIV efforts on those at most risk.

Genesis Samonte of the Philippine health department’s epidemiology bureau said eight out of 10 reported HIV cases were among men having sex with men (MSM).

“Risky behaviors are starting very young,” she said, adding that the MSM group on average started having sex at 16, and anal sex at 17 before they have started using condoms or taken HIV tests, increasing the risk of infection.

The report also showed that only 35 percent of MSM had comprehensive knowledge of HIV transmission and prevention.

Samonte said there were indications that a rise in the use of the Internet and cell phones was allowing more young people to have multiple partners, further fueling the risk of contracting HIV.

Cases will continue to increase and burden the Philippine health system if the nation does not invest in prevention and treatment, according to Samonte.

In Cebu, Dr. Van Phillip Baton, HIV/AIDS coordinator of the Department of Health in Central Visayas (DOH-7), said that 360 new cases of HIV and 26 for AIDS have been reported to their office from January to May 2017.

Most of those infected or 357 of them were men while 29 were women aged between 25 to 34 years old.

Baton said that most of those infected were men who had sex with other men. The second most common mode of transmission is the sharing of needles, he added.

He is asking those who suspect that they may be infected with HIV to submit themselves to free testing at DOH-7.

Testing can also be done at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) and Rural Health Units (RHUs) located in the cities of Cebu, Mandaue, Talisay and Danao.

Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said that “HIV is one of the top health priorities for the government,” that the budget for the disease had been sharply increased and her department aimed to start reversing the trend in five years.

The government was directing its services towards MSM and transgender women, and opening clinics in cities where the bulk of the new HIV cases were detected, Ubial added.

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