By Ellson Quismorio
Anakalusugan Party-List Rep. Mike Defensor finds the surge in the number of local deaths connected to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) “unacceptable.”
“The growing number of deaths among Filipinos with HIV is unacceptable, considering the availability of free treatment that can allow them to enjoy almost normal lives,” Defensor, a vice-chairperson of the House Committee on Health, said in a statement Sunday, on the occasion of World AIDS Day.
According to him, there were 460 reported deaths of Filipinos with HIV from January to July this year, up 66 percent from the 276 listed during the first seven months in 2018.
This means that every 12 hours, a Filipino – most likely male and aged between 15 to 34 years old – is dying of severe health complications from HIV. HIV destroys the body’s immune system and causes AIDS, or the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome.
“It would seem that new HIV cases are not being spotted and treated fast enough and early enough. This explains the increasing loss of lives and the large number with advanced infection,” Defensor said.
Defensor, chairman of the Committee on Public Accounts, says it’s up to the government to halt the growing figure.
“Coupled with strong preventive education, government has to find ways to encourage more Filipinos who suspect that they may have acquired HIV to seek prompt testing and treatment,” said the solon.
The Department of Health (DOH) has designated 104 HIV treatment hubs and primary care facilities across the country that provide both in-patient and outpatient services, and another 56 centers that provide outpatient services only.
The latest figures have brought to 3,514 the cumulative HIV-related deaths – 3,202 males and 312 females – reported since government began passive surveillance in 1984.
Of those lost, 50 percent were 25 to 34 years old at the time of death; 28 percent were 35 to 49 years old; 15 percent were 15 to 24 years old; six percent were 50 years and older; and one percent under 15 years old.
The national AIDS registry as of July lists an aggregate of 69,512 confirmed HIV cases, and 12 percent or 8,410 of them have “advanced infection,” or clinical stage 3 or 4.
The condition still does not have any known cure, but timely diagnosis and therapy with daily antiretroviral drugs can keep HIV under control and enable individuals to live healthfully and productively.
The predominant mode of HIV transmission in the country is sexual contact – with 85 percent of all cases from male-to-male sex and 11 percent from male-to-female sex. The other modes include infected needle-sharing among those who inject illegal drugs, mother-to-child conveyance and contaminated blood product transfers.