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DOH Worries Over Uptrend in HIV Cases, Offers Free Testing

At a time when its neighboring countries are seeing a decline in their human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection rates, the Philippines is going in the opposite direction, a development that worries the Department of Health.

At a press conference held Wednesday, DOH Assistant Secretary Paulyn Ubial said the steady increase in HIV cases is alarming with 20 new cases being reported daily. If the uptrend is not arrested, the agency expects 8,000 new cases of HIV in the country in a year.

“It is very alarming because all the countries in Southeast Asia are actually reversing the trend… they have fewer cases. It’s only the Philippines that has an increasing number of cases,” Ubial said.

She added that the DOH expected a 10- to 20-percent increase in HIV cases on top of the current trend.

“So we are expecting the numbers to increase one time, big time, but eventually we hope the number of cases will gradually decline,” Ubial said.

According to DOH statistics, 24,376 HIV cases have been recorded in the country since 1984, including 2,177 Aids cases and 1,167 deaths.

In March, DOH recorded 667 new HIV cases. Of these, 24 have progressed already into full-blown cases of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) while 18 have resulted to death.

Free HIV Testing

Health officials said the continuing rise of HIV cases in the county can be attributed to the low testing rate among key populations.

The 2013 National Demographic Health Survey showed that only two percent of women aged 15 to 49 had been tested for HIV and knew the results.

To address this, the DOH, in observance of National HIV Testing Week, will be conducting free HIV testing from May 11 to 15 in various clinics set up nationwide.

Free HIV screening services can be availed in all 39 clinics, which are strategically placed in high-risk areas in Metro Manila, Cebu, and Davao City.

The event is a prelude to the AIDS Candlelight Memorial on May 17.