RP among Asian countries with alarming HIV/AIDS cases

Published by rudy Date posted on May 30, 2010

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines is one of the countries in Asia where HIV/AIDS cases are increasing at an alarming rate, an official of the World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday night.

But what is worse, according to WHO country representative Dr. Soe Nyunt-U, is that the cases being recorded in the Philippines now are just the tip of the iceberg.

“We’ve been alarmed with the increase in the number of cases. Now we are seeing four to five new cases a day and we are seeing the tip of the iceberg. A lot of cases are (not seen). The epidemic is right here,” he told The STAR in an interview on the sidelines of the AIDS Candlelight Memorial 2010 last Friday at the Raja Sulayman Park in Manila.

Soe noted that HIV/AIDS is not simply on the rise in the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, India and China but there has also been a change in the “epidemic scenario” of those who acquire the virus.

“It’s not only the female sex workers now but also the MSM and the IDU. They are contributing to cases,” he said, referring to men-having-sex-with-men and injecting drug users, respectively.

From January to March, the Department of Health’s Philippine HIV and AIDS Registry had recorded the first 68 cases of injecting drug users who tested positive for HIV. They all came from Region 7 or Cebu.

This development had alarmed health experts because the AIDS virus spreads faster through IDU than by any other means. The reason for this is that an infected needle is often used by four to 10 drug abusers.

In 2000, one new case was being reported every three days but this rose to one case per day in 2007 and in two new cases per day in 2009.

Soe added that more young adults and young professionals get infected with the AIDS virus nowadays primarily due to changing behavior.

“Previously in Asia, we used to say that only men are promiscuous. Either they go to visit prostitutes or (they have) multiple partners. Females got the AIDS from their husbands or boyfriends. But now, we are seeing in Asian countries, including the Philippines, that multiple sex partners is common for both males and females, young adolescents and young professionals,” he maintained.

The expert believes that this development is a result of the declining morality of the people.

“I wouldn’t blame it on any other culture. It’s a little bit of external influence and we love our family traditional value. But people, especially the young professionals, are living away from family because of work,” he said.

Soe has underscored the need for the Philippines to step up its prevention and control programs for HIV/AIDS.

“We can’t spend a lot of our resources in treating HIV/AIDS patients. Prevention and control is cheaper compared to treatment. Our neighboring countries like Thailand has seen a generalized epidemic so we must do everything that we can to make sure that this will not happen,” he added. –Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star)

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