29% of drug users have HIV—Defensor

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At least 29 out of every 100 Filipinos who inject illegal drugs and who have themselves voluntarily tested for the human immunodeficiency virus are diagnosed HIV-positive, Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Michael Defensor said.

The HIV prevalence rate is 29 percent among Filipinos who inject drugs, including liquid shabu, or methamphetamine hydrochloride, Defensor said, citing a study by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in the Philippines.

“There’s no question that the risk of HIV infection is extremely high if an individual uses a needle or syringe that somebody with HIV has used, because the injection device may have residual blood, which can transfer HIV,” he said.

“In America, injection device sharing among drug users is now the second biggest spreader of HIV, next to receptive anal sex. And we don’t want this to happen here in the Philippines,” Defensor added.

Liquid shabu injection is fast becoming popular among Filipino drug users because “it produces a faster and greater high” compared to inhalation or sniffing/snorting, according to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

“We would urge Filipinos who inject drugs to have themselves voluntarily tested for HIV, especially if they’ve shared an injection device. This way, if they are diagnosed HIV-positive, they can undergo early treatment, and also help prevent transferring their condition to their loved ones, or to their sexual partners,” Defensor said.

“If we do not counteract the spread of HIV among Filipinos who inject drugs, the problem could be a huge future driver of the ongoing HIV epidemic in the country,” he added.

Defensor assured drug users that “they face absolutely no legal repercussions whatsoever” if they seek HIV testing.

“The confidentiality of the personal details of every Filipino submitting to an HIV test is guaranteed by law, and any disclosure is punishable by law,” he said.