Aids treatment not popular among youths

TREATMENT for Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome (HIV-Aids) is not popular among the youth, this holds true in the Department of Health study that revealed that a huge number of teenager from 15-19 years do not have access to Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART).

Based on HIV/Aids and ART Registry of the Philippines, August 2017 in access to ART by age from January 1984-August 2017, there were 5,913 estimated Persons Living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (PLHIV) under the “15 to 19 years of age”, of this number 198 are actually diagnosed, and only 239 or 4% are alive and on ART.

According to data, among the 15-to-19-year-olds who access ART, 35 percent are working, 33 percent are students, and 32 percent are working.

This little percentage of the access to treatment is reflected on the data that only 3 percent of the 15-17-year-olds among Male having Sex with Male (MSM) are aware on the treatment of HIV.

Same data revealed that 8 percent of 18-24 year-olds, and 13 percent for 25 years old are aware of available HIV treatment.

But this accessing to ART percentage is low despite the increasing percentage on awareness to public health facilities offering HIV services.

Data revealed that MSMs under 15-17 year-old bracket, 26 percent are aware of public health facilities offering HIV services, those who are under 18-24 age bracket are more aware of these facilities with 38 percent, but 25 years old and older topped the highest percentage of awareness with 44 percent.

It can be noted that this awareness to public health is also much smaller compared to the knowledge on how HIV is transmitted and prevented among the age groups.

The same information revealed that among the 15-17 year-old MSMs, 31 percent knows how is HIV transmitted and prevented, in 18-24 age bracket, 39 percent knows about it too, while age 25 years old and older have much higher knowledge on transmission and prevention with 44 percent, same level as their awareness to facilities.

Data also revealed that condom use during last sex across MSM age groups is also low, not reaching up to 50 percent.

Across MSM age groups, 27 percent of 15-17 years old are using condoms, 41 percent of 18-19 years old are using condoms, 44 percent of 20-24 years old, and 46 percent of 25 years old and above are using condoms.

According to the same data more than 60 percent of 15-17 years old MSMs said that condoms are not easy to get in their community, almost 60 percent also said they are embarrassed to buy condoms and more than 60 percent of those who are in the same age group did not buy or receive condoms.

More than 55 percent of MSMs under 18 to 19 years old also admit that they have difficulty getting condoms, less than 50 percent said that they are embarrassed to buy condoms and more than 40 percent said they did not buy or receive condoms.

Less than 50 percent of MSMs under age bracket 20-24, and 25 and older said that they cannot easily get condoms, embarrassed to buy condoms and did not receive or buy condoms.

Dr. Genesis Samonte, manager of HIV Unit-Department of Health Bureau, during the forum on right to health of Children in Accessing HIV Testing and Services bared that majority of new infections are noted among 15 to 24 years old.

She said that many start doing risky behaviors early and diagnosed and treated late.

"This is actually a challenge for us because if they get infected by the age of 15-24 years old and they have male and female partner then the likelihood of them infecting a female partner is very high. That means our female population will also get infected and that is what we are seeing right now because it is not only males that get infected in this country, females also get infected in this country. We should not forget about the females and say this is an MSM epidemic. This epidemic has affected every single corner of society regardless of sexual orientation or age," she said.

She added that an average age of the start of sexual activities among MSMs and transgender women is 16, and an average age of first anal sex is 17.

However, she noted that there is an increasing number of kids about 12 years old actually having sex already.

“So they are actually having sex already when they are 12, that is in elementary," she said.

Samonte added that 18 years old has been identified in the recent study as the average age of condom use, so this means there is a longer length of HIV exposure on teenagers who started their sexual activities at an earlier age.

The average age also of getting ART treatment is 28 years old.
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