As 2015 marks the end of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Department of Health (DOH) discloses today the status of HIV in the Philippines.
In a forum conducted today, the DOH reported the State of the HIV Epidemic in the Philippines. One of the findings of the study the agency has conducted revealed that the MDG indicator “correct and comprehensive knowledge on HIV prevention and transmission” remains low for all key populations. The country set a target of 80% but data showed that less than 40% of males and transgender who have sex with males, female sex workers, and people who inject drugs (PWID) demonstrate comprehensive knowledge on HIV.
“We need to strengthen our partnership with other government agencies such as the Department of Education, as well as community-based organizations in order to reach the young key population with correct information,” Health Secretary Janette P. Loreto-Garin explained.
The health chief added that the number of reported newly-diagnosed HIV cases in the country is increasing. From January this year to October, there are now a total of 6,552 individuals diagnosed with HIV. This is 37 times higher than the total number of people diagnosed with HIV for the entire year in 2001 (174) during the start of the MDGs. In 2000, 1 HIV case is diagnosed every three days. In 2015, 1 case of HIV is detected every hour.
Also, HIV cases among males and transgender having sex with males have increased 10 times in the past five years. In fact, the country has breached the United Nations 5% threshold in this group. Five percent (5%) is the United Nations’ threshold to declare an area as having a concentrated epidemic. From 1984-2009, the predominant mode of transmission was heterosexual sex. However in 2010, sharing of needles among PWID, and unprotected sex among males and transgender having sex with males, changed the epidemic scenario in the country. HIV prevalence is now above 5% in eight cities in the country: Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Puerto Princesa, Mandaue, Davao, Quezon City, Paranaque and Makati. In Cebu, HIV prevalence is already at 14%.
Target for condom use among males having sex with males (MSMs) to stop the epidemic was set at 80%. However, the country has only reached 44%. Thus, we should not expect to see a decline in new infections among MSMs until we increase condom use and sustain it at a high rate.
According to 2015 Integrated HIV Behavioral and Serologic Surveillance (IHBSS), one of the reasons cited for low condom use was its unavailability (54%) followed by rejection of using condoms during sexual activity (21%). To address this problem, the DOH appropriated a budget for the procurement of condoms and lubricants, and had been distributing these in the regions. Currently, DOH is identifying areas where to best distribute these condoms together with intensified peer education to promote condom use, especially in high-risk populations.
HIV and Hepatitis C remain high among PWID in Cebu city. There is an estimated 4500 PWID in Cebu City alone. IHBSS prevalence showed that one in every two PWID have HIV. About 1,289 PWID have already been diagnosed with HIV but only 112 (9%) are on anti-retroviral treatment. About 10% of PWID are new injectors or have started injecting in the past year.
Moreover, the HIV prevalence in the 15-24 years population has increased from .006% in 2001 to .053% in 2015. This translates to more than 800% increase.
Garin revealed that the World Health Organization and the UNAIDS (Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS) have again set a global target for 2020. These goals are: 90% of all PLHIV (People Living with HIV) will know their status, 90% of all PLHIV will receive antiretroviral treatment and 90% of all receiving antiretroviral treatment will have stable viral suppression.
“If we do not slow down our HIV epidemic, if we do not invest in preventing new HIV infections, the number of PLHIV will reach 133,000 by 2022”, Garin said, adding that this would cost Philhealth P4B per year for the outpatient HIV package alone and would continue to increase each year unless the country can stop new infections.
– DOH Philippines