By Analou De Vera
The Department of Health (DOH) underscored today the importance of early detection of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection, ahead of the observance of the International AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) Candlelight Memorial Day on May 18.
This undated photo provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a scanning electron micrograph of multiple round bumps of the HIV-1 virus on a cell surface. (Cynthia Goldsmith/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via AP / Manila Bulletin)
"HIV is no longer a death sentence these days. We should end the stigma and fear attached to disease. HIV/AIDS can be prevented with correct information and deaths can be averted with treatment," said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III in a press conference in DOH central office in Manila.
Duque reported that from January 1984 to March 2018, the number of individuals diagnosed with HIV is 53,192.
"Let me also underscore the fact that even if we have posted a 140 percent increase, we still are one of the countries that has a low HIV/ AIDS burden. Because other countries Indonesia, Thailand, there are almost 500,000 HIV/AIDS cases," explained Duque.
World Health Organization (WHO) Representative to the Philippines Dr. Gundo Weiler, meanwhile, said that given the current HIV situation in the country, they have to step up their efforts to reduce the HIV cases.
"In the Philippines in 2017, close to 500 deaths were reported in relation to HIV. Now, one of the main reasons for HIV deaths today is late diagnosis. And because obviously, people do not know that they live with HIV, they will not be able to access effective treatment, people start treatment late," said Weiler.
Weiler said that it is important for an individual to know his or her HIV status to avoid infecting other people especially their loved ones.
"People who were aware of their HIV status will be able to double precaution and make sure that they are not passing on the virus to their loved ones and partners; and people who test negative... could this be an opportunity to think about HIV virus and discuss it and make sure that also in the future they will keep their HIV negative status," the WHO official said.