THE Department of Health (DOH) has called on local chief executives in Metro Manila to help stem the epidemic that the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) has become through years of constant interference by the Catholic Church.
Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial met with Metro Manila mayors recently and called on them to help. "The time to act is now!"
The continued rise of HIV-Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Aids) cases in the Philippines underlines the country's penchant to let a problem fester by sweeping tings under the rug.
When the concern for HIV-Aids was at its highest in the global arena in the 1990s, the HIV-Aids situation in the Philippines was tagged as low and slow, meaning, the numbers are low and the growth is low. That can be attributed to the relatively conservative mindset of the Filipinos, maybe.
At the forefront, however, was the Catholic Church and its staunch refusal to allow government to address the problem.
But times have since changed and sex has become mainstream, something talked about openly and practiced with just about any willing partner, the Church has not been able to urge its faithful to keep the body sacred, and yet still continued to block the distribution of condoms, and so we have what we have: an epidemic when even Thailand, a country that had overwhelming numbers for almost a decade since the HIV-Aids problem has been made an international concern, was able to place theirs into a low and slow state.
Based on the latest DOH monitoring, there are already 45,023 HIV and Aids cases in the country from January 1984 to June 2017. Metro Manila accounted for 18,823 cases or 42 percent. In Davao City, the numbers too are high.
But health workers attribute this to the high awareness of seeking HIV test. The City's Reproductive Health and Wellness Center has in fact become a hub for those needing assistance and diagnosis, for the whole region and not just Davao City. There is relatively greater access, too, to condoms.
The problem as yet that has been recognized is the prevailing misconception that HIV-Aids only afflict the one who play around much. Meaning, there is the need for greater understanding and not just awareness.
But we're getting there, and it's hoped that with all the interventions available, and people with HIV-Aids coming out to tell their stories, less and less will be afflicted in the near future. This is hoped too in other areas, especially Metro Manila, where majority of the cases are.
Published in the SunStar Davao newspaper on September 23, 2017.
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