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Philippines vows to "scale up" response to growing number of HIV-infected people

Xinhua,December 01, 2017 Adjust font size:

MANILA, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- The Philippines vowed on Friday to "scale up" its response to a growing number of HIV-infected people that has now reached nearly 47,000.

As of August this year, acting the Philippines had recorded a total of 46,985 HIV positive cases since January 1984 or 33 years after the first case of HIV infection was detected in the country, acting Philippine Health Secretary Francisco Duque said.

The total number of HIV cases in the Philippines is estimated to reach 142,000 by 2022, and 313,000 by 2030, he said.

The Philippine HIV epidemic remains concentrated among key populations who engage in risky behaviors, according to the Department of Health (DOH) data.

From January to August this year, the DOH said 84 percent of newly reported cases were among males who have sex with males (MSM), and transgender women who have sex with males (TGW).

"The young population is not spared from risks and vulnerabilities to HIV as two in three estimated infections are from 15 to 24 years old MSM and TGW," the DOH said.

"The increasing trend of HIV infection signals that we have to scale up the country's HIV response," Duque said.

He urged those who are diagnosed to have been infected with the virus "to come forward and access the life-saving antiretroviral (ART) drugs in all our DOH-designated HIV treatment facilities".

According to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), a total of 36.7 million people were living with HIV globally in 2016.

Of these, it said 19.5 million HIV patients are on treatment. Approximately 5.1 million HIV patients are in the Asia-Pacific region, including some 270,000 new infections in the year 2016, the agency said.

Almost all Asian countries' HIV epidemics are classified as low level epidemic, meaning that only less than 1 percent of the general population are living with HIV, including the Philippines, the UNAIDS data showed.

"In the Philippines, we strive to maintain our prevalence at less than 1 percent," Duque said, noting the Philippines "successes" in preventing the spread of HIV infections and the treatment that the government provides to HIV patients.

To date, Duque said the Philippines is close to almost reaching 200 social hygiene clinics nationwide that provide HIV and sexually transmitted infections prevention services to key populations.

In terms of HIV testing, he said the government supports the conduct of free HIV testing in the clinics.

According to him, there are now 51 DOH-designated treatment facilities offering ART drugs in the Philippines. As of August this year, he said a total of 22,413 HIV patients had availed of ART medicines, or 33 percent of the estimated total number of HIV patients.

Duque said the Philippine government commits to providing and facilitating access to information for all Filipinos, prevention services for key populations, and treatment for (HIV positive Filipinos).

"By 2022, the goal is to provide ART to 90 percent of HIV (patients)," he added. Enditem