DOH champions right to health of PLHIV (People Living With HIV)

HIV and AIDS continue to pose a significant threat to Filipino families. Many countries today are facing this health issue affecting individuals, families, and health care systems.

According to UNAIDS, a total of 36.7 million people are living with HIV (PLHIV) globally in 2016. Of these, 19.5 million PLHIV are on HIV treatment. Approximately 5.1 million PLHIV are in the Asia-Pacific region, including the 270,000 new infections in the year 2016. Almost all Asian countries’ HIV epidemic are classified as low level epidemic, i. e., only less than 1% of the general population are living with HIV, including the Philippines. In the Philippines, we strive to maintain our prevalence at less than 1%.

Thirty-three (33) years after the first case of HIV was detected in the Philippines, the country now has a total of 46,985 HIV positive cases reported to the Department of Health from January 1984 to August 2017. The total number of PLHIV in the Philippines is estimated to reach 142,000 by 2022, and 313,000 by 2030.

The Philippine HIV epidemic remains concentrated among key populations who engage in risky behaviors. From January to August 2017, 84% of newly reported cases were among males who have sex with males (MSM), and transgender women who have sex with males (TGW). The young population is not spared from risks and vulnerabilities to HIV as 2 in 3 estimated new infections are from 15 to 24 year old MSM and TGW.

Despite the increase in the numbers of HIV cases in the country, it is of paramount importance to emphasize that successes have been achieved so far in our fight against the HIV epidemic – from prevention, treatment and care, as echoed by this year’s theme “Right to Health.”

To date, we are close to almost reaching 200 Social Hygiene Clinics nationwide that provide HIV and STI prevention services to key populations. In terms of HIV testing, the DOH continuously supports the conduct of free HIV testing among key populations as delivered by Social Hygiene Clinics. HIV testing is essential in the prevention of HIV transmission, and a crucial step in providing life-saving treatment to diagnosed PLHIV.

In case of HIV treatment, the DOH is fully committed to provide access to free Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) to all PLHIV. Currently, there is a total of 51 DOH-designated treatment facilities offering anti-retroviral drugs in the Philippines. As of August 2017, a total of 22,413 PLHIV are currently enrolled on ART – 33% of the estimated total number of PLHIV (67,000) by the end of 2017.

The increasing trend of HIV infection signals that we have to scale-up the country’s HIV response. As a country, we commit to deliver universal access to HIV prevention and treatment services. We commit to provide and facilitate access to information for all Filipinos, prevention services for key populations, and treatment for PLHIV. By 2022, the goal is to provide ART to 90% of PLHIV.

We will continuously mobilize support and foster partnerships with international bodies, other government agencies, non-government organizations, civil society, and the private sector to maximize whatever resources we have in hand. Lastly, we urge those who are diagnosed with HIV to come forward and access the life-saving anti-retroviral drugs in all our DOH-designated HIV treatment facilities.