US Ambassador MaryKay Carlson on Thursday led the handover of 86,000 HIV viral load testing cartridges valued at P85 million ($1.5 million) to strengthen the Philippine government’s HIV treatment program.
“These laboratory tests are further proof that the US government is committed to working alongside the Department of Health [DOH], the community of Filipinos living with HIV, and local governments like Manila City to ensure that people living with HIV in the country have equitable access to a viral load test,” Ambassador Carlson said at the turnover ceremony hosted by the Manila City government on Thursday as part of the commemoration of World AIDS Day.
“With this donation, we aim to amplify the hopeful message of U equals U: that undetectable is indeed untransmittable,” she stressed.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, Manila City Councilor for Health Dr. Louisito Chua, DOH Undersecretary Carolina Vidal-Taiño and members of the people living with HIV (PLHIV) community were also present during the event.
Secured through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the cartridges will be distributed to HIV treatment hubs and facilities across the Philippines and are expected to cover the country’s viral load testing requirements for all patients undergoing HIV treatment for one year.
“This donation of more than 86,000 viral load cartridges from the United States government will be pivotal to the country’s HIV treatment program,” said DOH Officer-in-Charge Maria Rosario Vergeire.
On behalf of the PLHIV community, Network Plus co-convenor Elena Felix said, “We are filled with so much hope that we will no longer have to lose our loved ones to HIV, and that we will be able to carry on with our lives, free from worry and stigma.”
Since December 2020, the US government has provided more than P1 billion ($18.2 million) to the Philippine government through PEPFAR to support HIV prevention, case finding, and treatment interventions.
This includes a donation of more than 81,000 bottles of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), an HIV-preventive drug that is being distributed by the DOH to more than 50 facilities across Metro Manila, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon.
The donation, valued at P31.3 million ($552,996), was turned over to the Philippine government in June 2021.
These recent donations signify the US government’s commitment to support the Philippines in addressing supply chain bottlenecks in the procurement of critical commodities in HIV detection and treatment and in achieving the country’s goal to end AIDS by 2030 through evidence-based strategies.