EVERY hour, there’s one Filipino diagnosed of having been infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), according to the Epidemiology Bureau of the Department of Health (DOH).
Health Secretary Paulyn Jean B. Rosell-Ubial has said on December 1 there are currently 33,000 persons living with HIV under treatment in the country. According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAids) fact sheet of 2016, globally, roughly 78 million people have become infected with HIV, since the start of the epidemic. Approximately 39.8 million people are living with HIV and only 17 million of them were accessing antiretroviral therapy (ART), the UNAids said. Moreover, about 40.8
million people have died from Aids-related illnesses since the start of the epidemic.
In the Philippines, as of June 2016, a total of 34,999 cases were recorded since the first case of HIV was diagnosed in January 1984. Of the total cases, 83 percent were reported from January 2011 to June 2016.
Ubial said that, of the total number of persons who tested HIV-positive, 18,000 are linked to care, while 17,000 started using ART. But Ubial has said “not everyone who is positive needs antiretrovirals.”
LIFElong ART is available to those registered in HIV treatment hubs. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “standard ART consists of the combination of antiretroviral [ARV] drugs to maximally suppress the HIV and stop the progression of HIV disease.” ART also prevents onward transmission of HIV, the WHO said on its web site.
The WHO “recommends ART for all people with HIV as soon as possible after diagnosis
without any restrictions of CD4 [cell] counts.”
Next year’s budget of the Philippines for ART will leap from P900 million (roughly $18 million) to P1 billion ($20 million). The budget, Ubial said, will allow the DOH to provide ART to over 39,000 individuals. This means the government would spend around P25,641 ($512.80) for each individual.
One ART drug, called Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs), costs from $54.00 (P2,701.08) to $1,197.32 (P59,889.95), according to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has pegged a treatment program costing at $500,000, or P25.01 million, every year.
Nevertheless, Ubial is confident the fresh funding will help the DOH achieve one of their goals set in the sixth edition of the country’s AIDS medium term plan (MTP).
The Philippines’s Aids MTP aims to increase knowledge in HIV transmission, prevention and services among 15- to 24-year-olds to 90 percent. It also seeks to prevent new HIV infection among 15 to 24-year-olds.
The plan also targets to test and treat 90 percent of people living with HIV and eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV in the country.
ACCORDING to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “with the right investments, the world can get on the fast-track to achieve our target of 30 million people on treatment by 2030.”
In a statement, Ban said “access to HIV medicines to prevent mother-to-child transmission is now available to more than 75 percent of those in need.” While there is clear progress, he emphasized that gains remain fragile.
“Young women are especially vulnerable in countries with high HIV prevalence, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Ban was quoted in a statement as saying. “Key populations continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV. New infections are on the rise among people who inject drugs, as well as gay men and other men who have sex with men.”
According to the UNAids, the AIDS epidemic is increasing in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, fueled by stigma, discrimination and punitive laws. Globally, people who are economically disadvantaged lack access to services and care. Criminalization and discrimination foster new infections each day. Women and girls are still especially hard-hit.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted with a promise to leave no one behind. Nowhere is this more important than in tackling AIDS.
“Supporting young, vulnerable and marginalized people will change the course of the epidemic,” Ban said. He cited that the UNAids strategic framework is aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, “which highlight how the work against HIV is linked to progress in education, peace, gender equality and human rights.”
BAN cited the UN and the UNAids’s commitment “to finding new and better approaches to end this epidemic.” “During its first decade, affected groups refused to accept inaction, mediocrity and weakness in the AIDS response,” Ban was quoted as saying. “Their courage drove progress on securing women and children’s health, lowering the costs of lifesaving drugs and giving voice to the voiceless.”
Meanwhile, the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) recently launched a “workplace policy” information campaign to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the country.
According to PRC officials, the campaign underscores the need to ensure that the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIVs) are protected across the PRC workplace.
The policy emphasizes the process that the PRC will follow in terms of scope and responsibility to protect PLHIVs from discrimination, recruitment and screening processes, code of conduct, reporting procedures, risk management and right definition of terms about HIV/AIDS.
“This Workplace Policy aims to keep a continuous approach to the prevention of HIV/AIDS among PRC employees and their families, as well as to impart knowledge and information on how to provide care and support of employees and any and all persons involved in all PRC projects, programs and operations who are living with HIV/AIDS,” PRC Chairman Richard J. Gordon said during the launch on December 1.
Gordon, who is also a member of the Philippine Senate, said the PRC has been conducting awareness campaigns and advocacies to halt not only the spread of the disease but also the stigma and discrimination attached to PLHIVs among communities, especially in workplaces.
To be concluded
Image credits: Nonie Reyes