HIV remains a “silent epidemic” as Filipinos continue to battle the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report.
In 2021, the Department of Health (DOH) said at least 890 Filipinos were diagnosed as persons living with HIV (PLHIVs) in the country.
Of the cases, 852 were male while 38 were female. Around 43 percent or 364 of them came from Metro Manila, 20 percent or 181 were from Calabarzon and 13 percent or 120 were from Central Luzon, DOH data indicated.
A total of 859 PLHIVs or 97 percent contracted it through sexual contact, one percent or six acquired it through sharing of infected needles, one child was infected through mother-to-child transmission while two percent or 24 cases have no data on its mode of transfer, the DOH data said.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are currently over 37-million PLHIVs globally of which, 27 percent or 10 million have no access to treatment or medication.
The WHO previously raised alarm on the matter, saying immunocompromised individuals are most prone to coronavirus infections.
“It’s now very much confirmed that people living with HIV have an increased risk for COVID as well as hospitalization and those once hospitalized have a 30 percent increased risk of death,” Dr. Meg Dohervy, WHO Director HIV, said.
According to non-government organization (NGO) Love Yourself, there was no shortage of HIV drugs in the Philippines amid the pandemic. The government also distributed enough supplies of the free medication.
However, delivery to provinces became a challenge, especially to far-flung areas such as the Mindanao region.
“Kinailangan natin na magkaroon ng bagong serbisyo para mailapit pa rin ang serbisyo ng HIV sa kanila (We needed to have a new service in order to keep the HIV service closer to them),” Love Yourself operations director Danvic Rosadino said.
“Kahit sabihin natin na nagbibigay tayo ng awareness, if wala syang call to action or walang mabibigay na serbisyo para mas mapangalagaan ang kanilang sarili, walang kwenta yung awareness. Although nagkakaroon minsan ng delays, nakakarating naman ito sa atin at sa ngayon, wala tayong shortage lalo na noong panahon ng Covid pandemic. Hindi naman tayo nagkaroon ng pagkukulang sa pagbibigay ng drugs (Even if we say that we provide awareness, if there is no call to action or no service to provide to take better care of themselves, awareness is meaningless. Although there are sometimes delays, it does reach us and so far, we have no shortage especially during the Covid pandemic. We don’t have any shortage in giving medicines),” he said.
Apart from treatment, Love Yourself has likewise continuously distributed HIV test kits. It also called on breaking the stigma against the condition.
“Kahit sino ka man lahat tayo ay may HIV status pero hindi lang natin alam kung ano ‘yung HIV status natin (Whoever you are, we all have HIV status but we just don’t know what our HIV status is),” Rosadino said.
“Kaya maganda na magpa-test kahit sa tingin mo wala kang risk, malay mo kapag na-experience mo ang HIV testing ay maisha-share mo siya sa isang tao na sa tingin mo nangangailangan ng tulong para magpa-test para malaman niya na ito ay confidential para ma-access ang mga serbisyo na kailangan mo para mas maalagaan ang iyong sarili (So it’s good to get tested even if you think you have no risk, you know when you experience HIV testing, you can share it with someone you think needs help, so he could get tested so he would know it is confidential, so you could take care of yourselves),” he added