WHO cites need for HIV screening
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday underscored the importance of intensified HIV screening programs to stem the AIDS epidemic in Asia-Pacific.
In a statement, Dr. Shin Young-soo, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific, said early HIV diagnosis through various testing schemes was an important strategy for HIV prevention and control.
“Moreover, people diagnosed with HIV should be linked to care and start treatment as early as possible to harness the benefits of antiretroviral treatment,” said Shin.
The push for expanded HIV testing highlighted a recent two-day meeting in Manila organized by the WHO’s regional office for the Western Pacific and UNAIDS, the United Nations’ Program on HIV/AIDS.
HIV or the human immunodeficiency virus is a known cause of the deadly acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), a spectrum of conditions caused by the infection.
According to the WHO, HIV testing and counseling among key populations—men having sex with men, transgender people, sex workers and drug users—was low in the region. Only one-third of these risk groups knew their HIV status in 2013, records show.
To end AIDS by 2030, the WHO said it was vital that the next five years be used as a “window of opportunity” to ensure that 90 percent of the people with HIV know their status, 90 percent of those who know their status have access to treatment, and 90 percent of those on treatment have suppressed viral loads.
“HIV testing lies at the foundation of the region’s response to HIV,” said Steve Kraus, UNAIDS director for the regional support team for Asia and the Pacific.
“Only if people know their status can we reach our global goal of ending the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat in the region,” he added.
In the Philippines, the government has provided enough funding for the treatment of 22,000 people with HIV. But as of May this year, only 10,207 people with HIV were accessing needed drugs in 19 treatment hubs in the country.
There were at least 19,849 HIV cases in the country from January 2010 to May 2015, according to latest records.
In a recent interview, Dr. Jose Gerard Belimac, program manager of the DOH Philippine National AIDS Council, said at least eight percent who are eligible to get treatment from the government have yet to avail themselves of this.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.