Hope for HIV patients

DOH-Davao tells people with ‘risky behavior’ that proper HIV diagnosis requires a specific process so that early and appropriate treatment will be provided
In this file photo, protesters light candles to protest the discrimination against people living with HIV. (File Photo)
In this file photo, protesters light candles to protest the discrimination against people living with HIV. (File Photo)

The Department of Health in Davao Region (DOH-Davao) reported that 63 percent of the 7,066 recorded people living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (PLHIV) were treated as of December 2023, achieving a 100 percent treatment rate among those identified.

Davao Center for Health Development and DOH-Davao Regional Director Dr. Annabelle P. Yumang reported on Tuesday morning, July 2, 2024, during the  Kapihan sa Bagong Pilipinas held at the DOH Conference Room in Davao City that 90 percent of the 63 percent PLHIV being treated are now virally suppressed or the virus has been at an “undetectable level.”

Despite the ongoing stigma around seeking help for certain health problems and the circulation of videos on TikTok promoting self-testing kits, Dr. Yumang advises against purchasing these kits online. She emphasizes that proper HIV diagnosis requires a specific process.

“For the [self]-diagnostics, mahirap po yan siya, sino ang mag-interpret ngayon sa kaniya [ng results]? For diagnosis of HIV, may proseso din kasi siya. Hindi lang nag-positive ka, okay positive ka. But no, you have to undergo process. Kung mag-diagnosis ka through online, tapos ikaw-ikaw lang yung nag-test, for the medical side and personal opinion, hindi po talaga siya advisable. Kaya nga sa advocacy natin, if you have the risky behavior, then you have to seek consultation. Para doon pa lang ma-identify ka na para proper treatment will also be given to you,” Dr. Yumang said on self-testing kits and self-medication. 

(For self-diagnostics, that's challenging because who will interpret the results to an individual? When it comes to diagnosing HIV, there's a process involved. It's not just about testing positive; you need to go through a proper process. If you diagnose yourself online and interpret the results on your own, from both a medical and personal opinion, it's really not advisable. That's why in our advocacy, if you have risky behavior, then you should seek consultation. This way, you can be identified early and proper treatment will be given to you.)

Dr. Yumang also reported efforts done by the DOH-Davao Region with their HIV-Aids program such as continuous training and expanding treatment hubs. She emphasized that there should be treatment hubs at the province level, and social hygiene clinics where individuals can be tested. 

“Kaya nga mananawagan tayo to those may feeling nila na HIV positive sila, please make sure na magpa-test kayo… treatment is free. It is a lifetime treatment yan siya na ibibigay sayo hanggang buhay pa si HIV patient. Libre po siya and we have a treatment hub at the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) and [you’ll be] treated with confidentiality,” she added.
(That's why we're calling those who feel they may be HIV positive, please make sure to get tested. Treatment is free, and it's a lifetime treatment that will be provided to you as an HIV patient. It's free, and we have a treatment hub at the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC), where you'll be treated with confidentiality.)

As of now, the DOH - Davao Region official report on HIV cases is current as of December 2023, underscoring their strict treatment of the HIV data repository with confidentiality. 

The DOH has emphasized its centralized system, highlighting that comprehensive data cleaning processes take place at the epidemiology bureau before the information is annually disseminated to regional and provincial levels. 

While the DOH conducts monthly data cleaning, the latest data they have is as of February 2024. The DOH has also disclosed that its data is fluid due to late reporting and ongoing data quality checks. This practice ensures that the data presented to the public is accurate, which is why they choose to issue an annual report. Charles Lj Sido, Silliman University Intern


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