SEN. Christopher “Bong” Go, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health, expressed his concern over the reported alarming increase in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cases in the Philippines, particularly among teenagers.
Responding to questions about the increasing HIV infections in a recent interview after aiding fire victims in Davao City, Go emphasized the need for a comprehensive and multi-disciplinary approach to tackle this growing health crisis.
“First of all, this is alarming. HIV cases are rising again. As chairman of the Committee on Health, we will focus on this,” stated Go.
He highlighted the importance of educating the youth about sex, teenage pregnancy, illegal drugs, and alcoholism as a primary step in addressing this issue.
Go underscored the role of discipline and awareness in combating the spread of HIV.
“Discipline is needed here. An education campaign is important … The approach should not be haphazard. It should be multidisciplinary,” he added.
Treating HIV as both a health and behavioral concern is crucial, he added. He noted that Department of Health (DOH) programs, including hospitals and Regional Specialty Centers focusing on infectious diseases, play a crucial role.
Go also principally sponsored Republic Act 11959, also known as the Regional Specialty Centers Act, signed into law by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., on August 24.
The law mandates the establishment of regional specialty centers within existing DOH regional hospitals. It stands as a testament to the commitment of the government to uplift the nation’s health infrastructure.
He said DOH programs, including hospital-based, HIV-related interventions will be addressed through the regional specialty centers, Go explained.
He also discussed the critical role of Malasakit Centers in helping those affected by HIV, and encouraged them to seek help from these centers.
Addressing the issue as a behavioral matter, Go stressed the importance of interventions at schools, health centers, and even within households. He also cited the Super Health Centers as a medium type of polyclinic where people, especially those in remote areas, can access government healthcare packages, including those for HIV prevention.
Super Health Centers are designed to focus on primary care, consultation, and early detection, further strengthening the healthcare sector in the country, especially in grassroots communities.
Free consultations would be handled by municipal health offices, local government units, and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) through its Konsulta program.
Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa recently reported a near doubling of HIV cases this year, with almost half involving teenagers. The introduction of a more infectious HIV subvariant, as noted by infectious diseases specialist Dr. Edsel Salvaña, contributed to this surge.
The rapid growth in HIV cases was discussed in a recent meeting between Herbosa and Vice President Sara Duterte, focusing on health literacy interventions.
According to the United Nations, the Philippines has one of the fastest-growing HIV epidemics globally, dating back to 1984. DOH declared the epidemic a national emergency in 2017 due to the rapid rise in infections.
Image credits: Philippine Information Agency