We All Need to Do Something About HIV in the PH
One small prick is all it takes. To get an HIV test, that is.
Miss Universe 2015 Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach got an HIV anti-body test yesterday in front of cameras to show us how quick and easy it is to know your HIV status.
One little prick to get a blood sample for testing and after 15 minutes, your test results will be released to you in a sealed envelope for your privacy. Best of all, in various public health clinics nationwide, HIV testing is free. “I want HIV testing to be normalized, like taking any other medical exam,” said Pia, who got herself tested for the first time in New York where she was based while serving her duties as Miss Universe.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends those between the ages of 13 to 64 years old get tested for HIV at least once and that people at high risk of infection get tested more often. (Read about the HIV Testing Guidelines.)
Fastest growing HIV epidemic
Last week, the Department of Health (DOH) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) revealed that new HIV infections in the Philippines have increased by 140% from 2010-2016. Though the base number of growth remains low (around 4,300 in 2010 to 10,500++ in 2016), the surge was enough to land the Philippines its own title—that of being the fastest-growing HIV epidemic in the Asia Pacific Region.
DOH data shows that number of new HIV cases in the Philippines per day has steadily increased from one per day in 2007 to 29 per day in 2017. The health department forecasts that, at this current rate, there will be a total of 142,400 cases by 2022.
In May 2017, a total of 1,098 new HIV infections were recorded. New infections clustered around young people with about 30% being between 15-24 years old.
However, as the reported numbers are based only on those who get tested, “The number of newly diagnosed may be even higher,” said Ronivin Pagtakhan, Executive Director of LoveYourself, a volunteer organization that offers free and confidential HIV screening.
A promise is a promise
Pia first made a promise to draw attention to HIV awareness when she was crowned Miss Universe. In the 2 years since, it has been a promise that she continues to renew. One of her new commitments to increase awareness about HIV and encourage testing is the Project Progressive Information Awareness campaign or PIA Project.
The PIA project will focus on informing young people about HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, spreading information on HIV and Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE), and promoting self-worth among the youth.
“With the PIA Project we hope to see an increase in HIV awareness, spread love for people living with HIV, and make HIV testing among Filipinos a normal part of their health and wellness routine,” said Pia in the press conference after her live HIV test.
One of the key components of the PIA Project is the #Live2LUV Campaign, a social media campaign that will feature short hip informational HIV and SOGIE videos that will be disseminated to local government units, senior high schools, colleges, universities and companies.
Asia-Pacific is lagging behind
While the Asia-Pacific region has made substantial progress in responding to HIV, the region is now lagging behind the global trends, and young people from key populations are at particular risk of HIV.
According to UNAIDS, getting tested and knowing your HIV status is crucial along with “combination prevention” which includes STI treatment and counseling and testing and consistent condom use. “Combination prevention adds more effectiveness that leads to the successful results. We learned across the globe that we should not be pushing for a single legged strategy totally dependent on condom promotion only,” said (Peter) Zimmbodilion Mosende, UNAIDS Country Director.
About 90% of HIV infections is transmitted through sexual contact. Only condoms offer dual protection against sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancy.
India achieved over 60% decline of new infections due to their targeted intervention programmes for key populations from early 2000.