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Digits matter: When HIV AIDS global numbers are going up

by | EDITOR’S CHOICE, Feature

Jul. 30, 19 | 10:25 am

The cases of HIV AIDS are drastically increasing in the past years. Efforts have been made and are continuously given by different health organizations across the globe including communication campaigns and IECs. These efforts, however, are still neglected since undocumented cases and even the number of deaths related to HIV AIDS is still enormous and unavoided.

Health experts said that not all HIV cases are recorded since some people have HIV but they do not know. They have not tested for HIV and are not aware they should access the free treatment provided by the Department of Health (DOH) for example.

But knowing the numbers, statistics, and trends on HIV AIDS would give pertinent insights on how to prevent and become aware of the virus and the disease.

Global scenario

According to UNAIDS, about 2.7 million people living with HIV in the Asia Pacific region are receiving antiretroviral therapy – expanding, but still behind global trends. US$ 3.7 billion was available for AIDS response in 2017 and current level of resources for AIDS response is about 25% below the annual resources needed by 2020 to reach the Fast-Track Targets.

Last year, an event co-hosted with Coalition PLUS, UNAIDS in Paris, France warns that the global response to HIV is at a precarious point. The new report said that new HIV infections are rising in around 50 countries. However, AIDS-related deaths are not falling fast enough. Half of all new HIV infections are among key populations and their partners without getting the kind of service they need.

“We are sounding the alarm. Entire regions are falling behind, the huge gains we made for children are not being sustained, women are still most affected and key populations continue to be ignored. All these elements are halting progress and urgently need to be addressed head-on,” Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS said.

UNAIDS also said that 36.9 million [31.1 million–43.9 million] people globally were living with HIV. 21.7 million [19.1 million–22.6 million] million people were accessing antiretroviral therapy in 2017.

1.8 million [1.4 million–2.4 million] people became newly infected with HIV in 2017. 940,000 [670 000–1.3 million] people died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2017. 77.3 million [59.9 million–100 million] people have become infected with HIV since the start of the epidemic. 35.4 million [25.0 million–49.9 million] people have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the start of the epidemic.

Philippine cases

“Most HIV patients are diagnosed in NCR (33%), Region 4-A CALABARZON (17%) and Region 3 Central Luzon (12%). However, it does not necessarily mean that they live in this region,” WHO in the Philippines said.

As of June 2018 last year (since 1984) there are now 56,275 recorded HIV cases in the Philippines. However, not all HIV cases are recorded; some people have HIV but they do not know. They have not tested for HIV and are not aware they should access the free treatment provided by the Department of Health (DOH).

HIV AIDS stories

“James” not his real name first encountered sex with a man when he was 18 years old. After that encounter, he continued practicing MSM or man having sex with another man.

It was in December 2016 when he experienced fever and body pain. He cannot explain the cause. Months after, James was diagnosed with AIDS due to multiple infections after he was admitted at San Lazaro Hospital in Manila.

“Lumaban ako at hindi ako nawalan ng pag-asa. Doon ko rin nakilala si Lord. Pinagaling nya ako by faith at binago. Ngayon ay undetectable na ako. Tumaas na rin ang CD4 ko (immune system). Now, I am normally living with HIV with God in my life,” he claimed.

Same with James’ story, “Mikel” from Cagayan de Oro City was a former overseas worker and according to him, he got HIV in the Philippines.

“Di ko alam na sa pakikipag-sex ko na walang protection, nahahawa na pala ako noon. 2016 ako na-diagnose with Pneumonia case naman ako,” Mikel said.

When Mikel returned to The Middle East in July of 2016, he was detected in his medical assessment that he has HIV already.

“Halos gumuho ang mundo ko noon at parang gusto ko nang wakasan buhay ko noong nalaman ko na may HIV AIDS na ako. Pero hindi pa pala huli ang lahat kasi tinapik lang ako ni Lord at binago nya ako,” he said.

Both James and Mikel are now members of Soldiers of Christ- a Catholic religious organization.

On the record

According to the Department of Health (DOH) Epidemiology Bureau, there were 993 new HIV antibody seropositive individuals reported to the HIV/AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP) as of June 2018. Eighteen percent (174) had clinical manifestations of advanced HIV infection (WHO clinical stage 3 or 4) at the time of diagnosis. Ninety-four percent (934) of the newly diagnosed were male, wherein the median age was 27 years old from age range 3 – 73 years old).

More than half (52%, 512) were 25-34 years old and 29% (287) were 15-24 years old at the time of testing. One third (33%, 324) were from the National Capital Region (NCR). Region 4A (17%, 167 cases), Region 3 (12%, 123), Region 6 (7%, 66), Region 12 (6%, 58) and Region 7 (6%, 55) round off the top six regions with the most number of newly diagnosed cases for the month, together accounting for 80% of the total.

Sexual contact remains the predominant mode of transmission (98%, 977). Among this, 88% were from males who have sex with males (MSM). Other modes of transmission were needle sharing among injecting drug users (1%, 7) & mother-to-child transmission (<1%, 2).

Seven cases had no data on the mode of transmission. Among the newly diagnosed females this month, four were pregnant at the time of diagnosis; three of the cases were from NCR and one case from Region 7.

Epidemic trends and histories

The first case of HIV infection in the Philippines was reported in 1984. Since then, there have been 56,275 confirmed HIV cases reported to the HARP. Ninety-four percent (52,622) were male and 6% (3,642) were female, however, there were no data on sex for 11 cases. The median age was 28 years old (age range: 1 year – 82 years).

More than half (28,773 or 51%) were from the 25-34 year age group while 15,834 (28%) were youth 15-24 years old.
Seventy-nine percent (44,603) of the total, diagnosed cases in the Philippines were reported from January 2013 to June 2018. Eleven percent (6,040) of the total ever reported cases had clinical manifestations of advanced infection at the time of reporting (WHO clinical stage 3 & 4).

From January 1984 to June 2018, sexual contact among MSM was the predominant (84%, 44,242) mode of transmission among males, followed by male-female sex (11%, 5,941), and sharing of infected needles (4%, 1,965).

More than half (53%, 23,417) of MSM were 25-34 years old at the time of testing, and 31% (13,494) were 15-24 years old. Among diagnosed females, male-female sex was the most common mode of transmission (92%, 3,355) followed by sharing of infected needles (3%, 119).

A total of 144 children (less than 10 years old), eight adolescents (10-19 years old), and one adult foreigner (22 years old) were reported to have acquired HIV through mother-to-child transmission.

From 1984 to 2006, the predominant mode of transmission was male-female sex. From 2007, the trend shifted to sexual contact among MSM as the predominant mode of transmission and has remained as such to the present. But from January 2013 to June 2018, 83% (36,817) out of the total (44,603) newly diagnosed cases were among MSM.

Medical assistance

There are no scientific medical treatments to “cure” HIV. There is however medicines that are used to treat HIV called anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs). These drugs according to experts suppress the number of HIV in a person’s blood so that they do not weaken the person’s immune system. When ARVs are taken consistently and correctly, PLHIVs can live long and healthy lives. Also, the undetectable level of HIV (extremely low levels) prevents the transmission of the infection to other people.

Over 80 treatment sites in the Philippines provide ARVs free of charge to all people living with HIV (PLHIV).

There are multiple players in the Philippines in the field of HIV: the Department of Health at the central and local level, the Global fund, the UN agencies, and civil society, to name but a few. We can only provide information for The World Health Organization – Office of WHO Representative to the Philippines.

The WHO recommended combining prevention methods because it is more effective. The choice for a prevention method differs from one individual to another depending on her/his characteristics, risk exposure, and the contexts where she/he evolves. The most appropriate options for an individual will also vary throughout the life cycle.

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Batangas City councilor dies from COVID-19

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