Editorial: Lack of concern on HIV/Aids spread

THE loss of concern by the public is worrisome.

Recently, AIDS-Free Philippines announced that the number of persons with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) increased from January to August this year compared with the whole of 2016. AFP listed 153 persons with HIV and 14 persons with Aids (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) within the period this year while for the whole of last year a total of 151 people with HIV and 11 persons with Aids were listed. But that hasn’t been met with as much concern as before.

Who would remember, for example, the report by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) in April this year that 136 inmates of the Cebu City Jail were afflicted with HIV? Not many, obviously. Compare that with the time when our knowledge of HIV/Aids was new so that every affliction conjured worries of an epidemic, as a cure for the disease had still to be found.

The sad fact is that there is still no cure for HIV/Aids although the spread of the virus in the body can now be controlled to allow those afflicted to live longer. That is why the lack of worry about the spread of the disease in the country should be a cause for concern.

A report by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids or UNAIDS recently said that the Philippines has the fastest growing number of HIV infections in the Asia Pacific region. The report said that a 140-percent increase in the number of new infections was noted in the country from 2010 to 2016 (an estimated 4,300 in 2010 to 4,300 in 2010).

To be fair, the number is smaller compared with those in some other worldwide where new infections have been counted by the tens of thousands. But that should not justify the lack of concern both by the public and the government. We do not have to wait until the spread is already difficult to contain.

Actually, reports on HIV infections are very detailed (according to AFP national director Rene Josef Bullecer, for example, the mode of transmission in the new HIV cases was mostly through sexual contact, both homosexual and heterosexual). This means that it wouldn’t be difficult for authorities to follow the advice of Eamonn Murphy of UNAIDS: “focus on the people most at risk and where they are located.”

And more importantly, we must add, act on the problem with dispatch.
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