Makati not among 6 PH cities most at risk of HIV
MANILA, Philippines—Six Philippine cities are most at risk for the spread of the dreaded human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV-AIDS) virus, according to the Department of Health.
Doctor Jose Gerard Belimac, head of the Department of Health National AIDS/STI Prevention and Control Program, yesterday identified Manila, Pasay, Quezon City, Cebu, Davao, and Angeles City as areas where the danger of the sexually-transmitted infection was “highest” in the country.
He warned that HIV-AIDS (Human immunodeficiency virus-acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) infections had risen 300 percent over the past years, particularly among young professional men who have sex with other men (MSM).
More than 30 million casualties
HIV infection, which leads to AIDS, is still an incurable and often fatal disease. Current retroviral medications seek to stall the advance of the virus to full-blown AIDS. A world pandemic, the disease has killed over 30 million people since it was identified in 1981.
In the Philippines, “nine persons are infected with HIV every day. That means every two to three hours, one Filipino gets infected,” Belimac said at the sidelines of the 12th Philippine National Convention on AIDS at the Bayleaf Hotel in Intramuros, Manila.
“Who are these Filipinos? They are typically your 20 to 29 year old males, young working professionals. (They comprise) nine out of 10 of newly infected Filipinos,” Belimac said.
“What is alarming is the rise in rate of infections every year. It has risen from 100 percent to 200 percent
to 300 percent already compared to previous years,” he added.
Belimac said the government was focusing its efforts on the six cities and among men who have sex with men, who registered the highest increase in infection.
“Based on our studies, it is in these six cities where the problem is really big. We saw that the prevalence of HIV among MSM is higher in these cities. We will pour our prevention efforts there,” he added.
However, the much-feared termination at the end of the year of foreign funding for the free medication of people with HIV has been averted with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS allocating $5 million for 2013-2014, he added.
Belimac said that the Global Fund would also prioritize funding the treatment people with HIV or those who have already developed the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
“The Global Fund (managers) said government could do the prevention and education efforts so they will focus on funding antiretroviral drugs and condoms,” he said.
“There will be no cuts. In fact, we will be expanding and changing our guidelines so that more HIV patients would be treated,” he added.
“The Filipino MSM community knows what HIV is. They know how to avoid it but what they did not
(internalize) that HIV was already in the Philippines. What they thought was HIV was just a news report
coming from Europe or America,” Belimac said.
“So, they thought it was OK to practice unsafe sex. It was too late and they eventually became infected,” he added.
Belimac said that to stop the spread of the virus, Filipino MSMs should realize that they are at risk, adding that “eight out of 10 new infections are MSM.”
In 2010, the rate of HIV infection was noted to be on the decline worldwide due to all-out prevention education campaigns—except in seven countries, including the Philippines.