On World Aids Day, Palace calls for unity in fighting the disease

AS IT marks World Aids Day on Friday, December 1, Malacañang urged the Filipino people to unite and put an end to the rapidly expanding human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) epidemic.

"As we commemorate World AIDS Day, we must work as one to increase the capacity of the country for early warning, risk reduction, and management of national and global health risks, including HIV/Aids," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement,

"We urge all Filipinos to help end the stigma of HIV/Aids and contribute to prevent the spread of the disease. Together, let us support the government in this endeavor," he added.

World Aids Day takes place every December 1 to raise awareness about HIV and call on everyone to unite in the fight against the deadly disease.

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids (UNAids) found in its report titled "Blind Spot" that men are more likely to die than women because of Aids-related causes.

The UNAids reported that globally, men accounted for about 58 percent of the estimated one million Aids-related deaths in 2016, noting that "despite their many social and economic advantages, men are less likely than women to seek out health care, to take an HIV test or to initiate and adhere to HIV treatment."

The report also included the Philippines as among the nations where there is a higher risk of HIV infection.

The UNAids has recorded a total of 36.7 million people living with HIV globally in 2016. Around 5.1 million of people suffering from the disease are in the Asia-Pacific region, including the 270,000 new infections last year.

The UNAids earlier said that the Philippines has become one of the eight countries accounting for more than 90 percent of new HIV infections in Asia Pacific region.

It revealed a 140-percent increase in the number of new infections in the Philippines over the past six years, from roughly 4,300 cases in 2010 to around 10,500 in 2016.

According to data provided by the Department of Health (DOH) on Friday, some 46,985 cases have been reported in the country from January 1984 to August 2017.

The DOH said that from January to August 2017, about 84 percent of newly reported cases were among men who have sexual intercourse with same sex, and transgender women who have sex with males.

It also noted that two in three estimated new HIV infections came from males and transgender women aged 15 to 24.

"The total number of (people who tested positive in HIV) is estimated to reach 142,000 by 2022, and 313,000 by 2030," the Health department said.

Roque, who is among the principal author of Philippine HIV and Aids Policy Act when he was still a congressmen, stressed the need to end the HIV epidemic in the country.

"We have much left to do. We have to strengthen the stigma reduction mechanisms of existing laws and guarantees that the country’s HIV and Aids response is premised on the respect, recognition, and promotion of human dignity," Roque said.

"On a larger scale, government needs to address not just the health issues themselves but also the social determinants of health that contribute significantly to the persistence of these communicable diseases," he added. (SunStar Philippines)
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