Thursday, August 30, 2012

Philippine HIV infections pass 10,000-mark


MANILA, Philippines - A total of 278 new human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cases were diagnosed in the country in July, up 36 percent compared to the 204 reported in the same month of 2011, a member of Congress said Wednesday.

Citing National Epidemiology Center statistics, LPG-MA Rep. Arnel Ty said the new infections brought to 1,878 the cumulative number of new HIV cases discovered in the seven months to July.

Ty said the Philippine HIV and AIDS Registry, which began passive surveillance of the disease in 1984, now lists an aggregate of 10,242 cases, including 1,078 with full-blown AIDS.

HIV causes AIDS, or the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. The disease that destroys the human body’s immune system does not have any known cure. However, anti-retroviral treatments can slow down the ailment.

Ty is one of the five authors of House Bill 5312, which seeks to renew the country’s outmoded, 14-year-old AIDS Prevention and Control Law.

He said the House committee on health has already initially approved the bill, which is now pending with the (House) committee on appropriations.

The bill proposes to earmark an extra P400 million to launch a forceful new program to suppress the disease that is being spread in the country largely via sexual contact, predominantly male-to-male sex.

Modes of transmission

Ty said the July cases included 36 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who all acquired the virus through sexual encounters, and 16 drug users who were all infected after they shared tainted needles.

He said last month’s cases – 265 males and 13 females ­– had a median age of 27 years, with those in the 20 to 29 age group comprising 58 percent.

Except for the 16 injecting drug users, all of the new cases in July were contaminated due to sexual activity, with males having sex with other males accounting for 85 percent.

The Philippine National AIDS Council has warned that up to 46,000 Filipinos could be diagnosed with HIV by 2015, unless the rapid spread of the contagious disease is contained.

At the rate new cases are being spotted, the Philippine government could be spending up to P1 billion annually by 2015, just to procure the anti-retroviral drugs for Filipinos living with HIV, according to Dr. Edsel Salvana, a specialist in infectious disease medicine.

As of March 31, Ty said at least 2,278 Filipinos living with HIV were known to be undergoing anti-retroviral therapy.

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