MORE than a fourth of the 4,643 new cases of the human immunodeficiency
virus infections from January to June this year involve youth aged 15 to 24 years old, physicians said Friday.
Speaking at the National Youth Forum on Public Health at the Bayanihan Center in Mandaluyong City, physicians noted that data from the HIV/AIDS Registry of the Philippines showed that 1,299 of the 4,643 new cases, or 27.9 percent involved youth.
In June 2016, there were 841 new HIV positive individuals— the highest number of cases ever reported since 1984.
Physician Kate Leyritana, medical director of Sustained Health Initiatives of the Philippines, blamed the record number of cases on the lack of information among the youth and the social stigma that prevents infected individuals from seeking medical treatment.
“I want the HIV to be routinely open in our conversation to end the stigma,” Leyritana said, adding that sexually active individuals should undergo testing.
According to Department of Health data, newly diagnosed HIV cases among young people increased by 230 percent from 2011 to 2015.
More than half of those cases (58 percent) involved male to male sex while 26 percent involved males who have sex with both males and females. There were also 9 percent who were infected from sex between males and females.
The data showed that high-risk behavior start in adolescence, but initiation into protective behaviors such as condom use, start two to three years later on the average.
“The problem is it is considered immoral, but it is [about] public health,” said Dr. Winlove Mojica, clinical associate professor from the Philippine General Hospital who also spoke in the forum.
“Let us not make it so dramatic. Let us avoid associating it with something immoral,” he said. “It is a health concern, not a religious concern.”
Leyritana noted there are 22 treatment hubs, 16 satellite houses, and 10 other places available for those infected by the virus and medication from these hubs and status testing from social hygiene clinics are free.
“But there is a misconception. It is important that you don’t have the virus. Prevention is better than cure,” Leyritana said, stressing that there is still no definite cure for the disease.
To those who don’t have nearby clinics, the doctors encouraged them to raise the matter to the local government.
“You can ask the local government to deal about it. Just show the number [of cases],” Leyritana said.
HIV is mostly spread through men-having-sex-with-men. Other modes of transmission are blood transfer and mother-to-child infection.
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