The Department of Health (DOH) commemorates today the World AIDS Day with this year’s theme: ‘Promoting Unity to Stop HIV in the Philippines’.

“We can stop HIV transmission only through a collective societal effort, focusing on widespread HIV awareness among the youth and vulnerable populations, relentlessly promoting consistent and correct condom use, establishing test and treat service delivery networks nationwide and ending stigmatization and discrimination in workplaces. We need to foster real collaboration with other government agencies such as the Department of Education, as well as community-based organizations in order to reach the young key population with correct information on HIV and its consequences and how to stop its transmission and spread,” Health Secretary Paulyn Jean B. Rosell-Ubial said.

From January 1984 to October 2016, a total of 38,114 cases of HIV were reported in the country. In 2016, roughly 26 new HIV infections every day are being reported or a total of 7,756 HIV cases (DOH, Epidemiology Bureau). Compare this to 2008 when only one new HIV infection per day was reported. Most (83% or 32,099) were reported from January 2011 onward. Based on current information, at least 1,912 Filipinos have died because of AIDS. Currently, 16,637 people living with HIV are on anti-retroviral treatment. Life-long antiretroviral treatment remains free for those who are registered in HIV Treatment hubs now conveniently located all over the country for easy access.

More than half of all cases (19,578) belong to the 25-34 years old age group while 10,279 cases are among the youth (15-24 years old). The predominant mode of transmission from 1984 to 2007 was unprotected heterosexual sex. After 2009, male-male unprotected sex became the predominant mode of transmission.  In 2010, HIV transmission through sharing of infected needles started to increase. Because of this, spreading of HIV now remains a potential threat to female partners of infected male injecting drug users and mother-to-child transmission.

The health chief added that DOH is continuously offering free and confidential HIV testing in Social Hygiene Clinics run by local government units and in 26 HIV Treatment Hubs nationwide. The DOH is seriously considering the WHO recommendation on self-testing to improve HIV testing rates and prevent treatment delays.

The DOH thru the Philippine National AIDS Council is committed to end the spread of HIV and continuously assist in improving the lives of people living with HIV. The 6th AIDS Medium Term Plan (AMTP), which is the blueprint of our national response on HIV and AIDS targets the following for 2022: (1) Increase knowledge of HIV transmission, prevention, and services among 15-24 years old to 90%, (2) prevent new HIV infections among 15-24 years old, (3) test and treat 90% of people living with HIV, and (4) eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

The DOH is optimistic on reversing HIV trends in the next 6 years if an ‘All of Society” and “HIV in All of Policies’ approaches are sought with renewed vigor and determination. “All for Health towards Health for All” resonates for Stopping HIV. “The Global call for Hands Up for HIV prevention has just turned a new leaf in the Philippines,” the Secretary concluded.