Friday, January 29, 2010

HIV on the Rise

There has been an alarming increase in the rate of new Human Immunodeficiency Virus cases in the Philippines. While we still have one of the lowest prevalence rates of HIV in the world, we must immediately take the necessary measures to avert a full-blown crisis.

From the time the Department of Health began tracking HIV disease in 1984, there have been 4021 cases recorded. 318 have died from the disease. The mortality rate is difficult to determine however because most of the afflicted patients go home to their provinces and spend their final days in seclusion and anonymity.

Compared to 2008, there was a three-fold rise in the incidence of HIV in 2009. The increase was largely attributed to the cohort group of men having sex with other men (MSM), differentiated from openly homosexual males. Current public health interventions do not cover the generally invisible MSM population composed of young, urban professionals in Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao.

A coordinated educational campaign through the internet, which is the preferred mode of communication among MSM groups must be immediately implemented. Widespread and frequent testing for HIV which is offered free of charge in government tertiary care hospitals should be encouraged and the principles and practices of preventive measures clearly articulated.

It would be a national tragedy to confront yet another epidemic when we haven’t even contained the scourge of tuberculosis.


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