The Department of Health (DOH) reminded the public to practice safe sex as it is important to avoid human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) transmission.
“On an individual level, marami rin tayong mga pansariling hakbang na maaaring gawin upang mapigilan ang pagkalat ng HIV (we also have several personal measures that can be taken to prevent the spread of HIV),” said DOH Officer-in-Charge Maria Rosario Vergeire on Thursday, Dec. 1.
“Let us always practice safe sex, regularly undergo HIV testing, and encourage all our friends and peers to do the same,” she added.
Practice safe sex involves proper knowledge about sex as well as contraceptive and family planning methods.
It is also important to know about the different sexually transmitted infections, said DOH-Prevention and Control Bureau Program Expert Roland Sardan during a webinar.
“You would never go wrong with the right information and right knowledge about the disease and how it is spread, how it is transmitted, how you will protect yourself,” said Sardan.
“And also promoting sex positivity—kasi nga nagiging taboo yung usapang sex sa atin. If we just accept that it’s a normal human process that we do and you have the proper knowledge to protect yourself, then you can protect yourself from HIV,” he added.
Vergeire said that the “ongoing HIV and AIDS epidemic in the country remains to be one of the long-standing issues requiring concerted action from all sectors of society.”
“The goal of ending AIDS can only be achieved if the inequalities that predispose us to the disease and exacerbate its impacts are addressed,” she said.
She emphasized the importance of cultivating a “sustainable and supportive environment that is responsive to the needs of our vulnerable and key populations” such such as people living with HIV (PLHIV).
“We must all work together not just to implement our strategies and interventions, but to ensure that those who need it most–especially our PLHIVs and other key populations–are able to access our HIV services without difficulty or stigma,” said Vergeire.
“Beyond this, we must also harness our individual expertise and join our efforts to address the systemic and socioeconomic barriers that prevent our fellow Filipinos from leading healthy, productive lives free from the impacts of HIV. Only through collective action will we be able to end the HIV epidemic in the country,” she added.
Sardan said that the DOH is aiming to further increase the number of HIV treatment hubs in the country to make it more accessible to those with HIV. Currently, there are 184 treatment hubs nationwide.
US government donation
In a related development, the US government donated P85 million worth of HIV viral load testing cartridges to further strengthen the Philippines’ HIV treatment programs.
“This donation of more than 86,000 viral load cartridges from the United States government will be pivotal to the country’s HIV treatment program,” said Vergeire.
The US government is committed to help the Philippines in its fight against HIV, said US Ambassador MaryKay Carlson during a turnover ceremony in Manila on Thursday.
“These laboratory tests are further proof that the US government is committed to working alongside the Department of Health, the community of Filipinos living with HIV, and local governments like Manila City to ensure that people living with HIV in the country have equitable access to a viral load test,” said Carlson.
“With this donation, we aim to amplify the hopeful message of U equals U: that undetectable is indeed untransmittable,” she added.
Globally, there were 38.4 million people living with HIV at the end of 2021, the DOH said as it cited data from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
“In the Asia and Pacific Region, the Philippines has the fastest growing HIV case with a 237 percent increase in annual new HIV infections from 2010-2021,” the DOH said.
Since 1984, the Philippines has already recorded a total of 107,177 HIV cases.