CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- In line with the observance of World Aids Day 2019, the Department of Health (DOH)-Central Luzon urged the public to be united in preventing the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
With this year's theme "Communities Make the Difference," the health agency underscored the important role of communities in raising awareness and encouraging care and support for People Living with HIV (PLHIV).
DOH-Central Luzon Director Dr. Cesar C. Cassion in a statement urged the government agencies and private sector to unite and take responsibility in being involved to HIV prevention and control mechanisms.
He also assured the public that HIV services are in place region-wide, with four additional HIV Treatment Centers (Mariveles Mental Wellness and General Hospital, Concepcion District Hospital, Moncada Rural Health Unit 1, and Family Planning Organization of the Philippines - Pampanga Chapter) to open this December.
Status of HIV on communities
Based on 2018 United Nations Program on HIV and Aids (UNAids) Global Report, Philippines has the highest increase of new HIV infections of 203 percent in Asia and the Pacific, according to Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III.
The DOH reported that from 1991 to present, males comprised 94 percent (65,079) of the diagnosed cases in the country. The predominant age group among those diagnosed are the 25-34 years old from 2006 up to present.
The number of HIV positive cases in the 15 to 24-year age group nearly doubled in the past 10 years, from 17 percent in 2000-2009 to 29 percent in 2010-2019, with sexual contact among Men having Sex with Men (55,386 or 85 percent) as the predominant mode of transmission among males, it added.
The number of diagnosed HIV cases has been also reportedly increasing from one per day in 2008 to 35 per day as of July 2019. A total of 3,514 deaths were reported from January 1984 to July 2019.
From January 1984 to July 2019, the regions with the most number of reported cases were NCR with 26,832 cases (or 38 percent), Calabarzon (10,431 cases or 15 percent), Central Luzon (6,543 cases or nine percent), Central Visayas (6,153 cases or nine percent), and Davao Region (3,917 cases or six percent), DOH-3 disclosed.
With the current HIV situation in the country, the communities' leadership and advocacy is foreseen to ensure relevant and immediate response to all PLHIV.
The expansion and mobilization of communities is also seen to help in achieving the 6th AIDS Medium Term Plan and the DOH's vision of zero new infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS-related death.
The DOH noted its goal for all PLHIV is that 90 percent of all PLHIV will know their status, 90 percent of diagnosed PLHIV will receive Anti-retroviral Therapy (ART), and 90 percent of all receiving ART are virally suppressed. As of July 2019, a total of 69,512 cases (77 percent) were diagnosed since 1984 from a total of 90,400 estimated PLHIV.
From a total of 64,492 total diagnosed cases, 38,903 or 59 percent were receiving ART, and as of June 2019, 96 percent of PLHIV on ART are virally suppressed.
It also bared some of its key strategies which consist of a) diagnosis and treatment of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI), especially skin sores/ulcers. STI should be diagnosed early and treated.
The DOH is providing free antibiotics to Social Hygiene Clinics nationwide and distributing condoms and water-based lubricants in health centers and partner Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) nationwide.
The key populations (MSM, entertainment establishment workers) are the priority populations for the distribution of these commodities. There are also over 100 social hygiene clinics nationwide that offer free HIV counseling and testing, and community-based HIV screening.
The current DOH campaign dubbed as LHIVE FREE encourages the most at risk population to get tested and treated.
The campaign aims to help people who tested positive for HIV understand that they can still live a good life if they get treated and adhere to treatment.
Those who tested negative will be anxiety-free and may live a healthier lifestyle that includes practicing safe sex.
The LHIVE FREE campaign involves the identified enablers and support groups of people living with HIV in their journey to wellness, thus the word FREE stands for Family and Friends, Religious and political leaders, Educators and Media, and Employers and the Community.
Thru the Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC), DOH collaborates with other agencies to ensure that HIV education is provided in workplaces, schools, and communities.
Community fora, school assemblies, and outreach activities are being done.
Relative to the World Aids Day observance, with the aim of intensifying awareness and testing, DOH-CLCHD is also celebrating the Regional HIV Testing Month in the month of December, where all government testing facilities and partner private organizations provide free HIV Testing Services in various setting.