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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, November 8, 2019
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Intervention necessary

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The United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) warned that unless “drastic moves” are implemented by the Philippines, the number of persons affected with the human immunodeficiency virus will hit 201,000 by 2025.

“The Philippines has been projected to have 201,000 HIV cases by 2025, up from 56,000 cases in 2016 and 142,000 cases in 2022,” UNAIDS country director Louie Ocampo recently said. Of the figure, 42 percent of cases will come from the National Capital Region, 18 percent from Western and Central Visayas as well as Davao region, 14 percent from Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) and 9 percent from Central Luzon.

Ocampo worries that the country will not reach its targets by 2020 unless out of the box interventions are implemented. The global target aims to enable 90 percent of all people living with HIV to know their status, 90 percent of those who know their status to avail of the anti-retroviral treatment (ART) and 90 percent of the people on ART to suppress their viral load. The final objective, which is seen as the most difficult to hurdle in the country, is zero stigma and discrimination for people living with HIV.

Instead of seeing a reduction, the number of new HIV infections in the Philippines has grown by 203 percent from 2010 to 2018. Moreover, Ocampo is concerned by the statistic that two of three new infections come from the 15-24 age bracket.

With regard to the work that needs to be done if we are to reach our goal, data from this year shows only 77 percent of infected individuals know their status, 57 percent are getting ART and 8 percent are being tested for viral load. The Philippines is a long way from being near the goal of three 90s.

Citing a 2018 UNAIDS report, Ocampo said the Philippines is a “country with the fastest growing epidemic in the world.”

To curb the epidemic, he stressed the need to address the low level of knowledge among the youth, especially males-who-have-sex-with-males, on how HIV is transmitted and prevented.

The longer we try to ignore this epidemic, the more Filipinos will be infected and affected. Let us not wait until the growth of the HIV/AIDS epidemic gives us the most number of cases in the world before acting decisively and protecting our people, especially the vulnerable youth, from this disease that can be prevented with awareness and knowledge.*


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