Philippines way short of goal vs HIV, says UN agency

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04:18 AM January 17th, 2012

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By: Jerry E. Esplanada, January 17th, 2012 04:18 AM

With a 50-percent increase in new HIV infections in the past 10 years and decreasing local and foreign funding for anti-AIDS programs, the Philippines has “a long way” to go to meet its sixth Millennium Development Goal (MDG)—to halt and reverse the spread of the dreaded disease by 2015.

According to the country coordinator of the United Nations Program on HIV-AIDS (UNAIDS), Teresita Marie Bagasao, the country should “dramatically scale up its HIV-AIDS prevention efforts so it could fulfill its MDG commitment.”

“With decreasing external resources, the country needs to mobilize domestic resources to get ahead of the epidemic. The country also has to focus on where the disease is, as well as to do things faster, smarter and better based on evidence of what works,” Bagasao told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Funding for anti-HIV-AIDS programs “needs to be four times (about P1.76 billion) more than the current level (about P440 million per year) to achieve universal goals,” she stressed.

“Eighty percent of resources for AIDS response is external, mainly from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. However, the current Global Fund grant will come to an end in Nov. 2012. The program may start accepting new funding proposals by late 2013 or early 2014. This means the country’s resource gap will be even greater,” Bagasao pointed out.

The Philippines received  about $20.4 million (about P890 million) in grants from the Global Fund to boost its not so successful “Getting to Zero” campaign against HIV-AIDS.

Top recipients

Among the top recipients of Global Fund releases were Ethiopia ($560 million), India ($385 million) and Tanzania ($364 million), as well as Southeast Asian countries like Thailand ($174 million), Cambodia ($111 million), Indonesia ($85 million) and Vietnam ($27 million).

Exacerbated by the “underfunding, if not unfunding” of anti-HIV AIDS programs, current efforts by both the public and private sectors are not enough to reverse Department of Health estimates of a five-fold increase in new HIV infections in the next five years.

“If current efforts remain at the same level, there will be 30,000 to 45,000 cases of HIV in the country by 2015,” Bagasao warned.

From an estimated 600 HIV cases in 2001, some 4,600 new infections were monitored last year by the DOH.

“New HIV infections in the country, which have been expanding since 2009, are concentrated among men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs and sex workers,” said the UNAIDS official.

She disclosed that “the vast majority of people living with HIV are based in three highly urbanized metropolitan areas: Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao.”

However, “new HIV infections are also reported in other areas in the country and among overseas Filipino workers.”

Since 1984, some 3,700 Filipinos —including an estimated 500 in 2010—have died of AIDS-related causes, noted Bagasao.

Philippines one of seven

The human immuno-deficiency virus, or HIV, leads to AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, a condition in which the body’s immune system is attacked, weakened and disabled by the virus, ultimately leading to death. HIV is transmitted mainly through sex or blood transfusion.

In a 2010 Global AIDS report released by UNAIDS, the country was one of seven nations in the world which reported over 25 percent in new HIV infections, whereas other states had either stabilized or shown significant declines in the rate of new infections.

Among all countries in Asia, only the Philippines and Bangladesh were reporting increases in HIV cases, while others were either stable or decreasing, the UN-attached agency also reported.

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