Philippines not making progress in curbing HIV, AIDS

Published by rudy Date posted on May 26, 2011

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines has not been making progress in meeting its sixth Millennium Development Goal, which is halting and reversing the spread of the dreaded HIV-AIDS disease, according to the country coordinator of the United Nations Program on HIV-AIDS (UNAIDS).

Teresita Marie Bagasao, head of the Manila office of UNAIDS, has noted that “programs are being implemented by both public and private sectors to touch lives not only of Filipinos living with HIV, but also to reach out to many more who put themselves at risk of HIV infection.”

Bagasao, however, said “current efforts are not enough to reverse Department of Health estimates of a five-fold increase in new HIV infections in the next five years.”

“We need to act now and invest in the right programs and policies that foster government, civil society and private sector partnership in the prevention of the disease,” Bagasao told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

UNAIDS has come up with a global campaign called “Zero HIV,” which aims to educate everyone about HIV, as well as stop and reverse its spread.

The human immuno-deficiency virus, or HIV, leads to AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, a condition in which the body’s immune system is attacked, weakened and disabled by the virus, ultimately leading to death.  The virus is transmitted through sex or blood transfusions.

Bagasao expressed hope Philippine leaders would join their counterparts from other UN member-countries in next month’s UN General Assembly high-level meeting on HIV-AIDS.

In the June 8-10 conference, “commitments made by various governments during the first UN special session on HIV-AIDS, held in 2001, will be reviewed,” she said.

“The meeting would spell out the future global course of action on AIDS, as well as the implications for countries like the Philippines, which does not seem to be making progress towards meeting its MDG no. 6,” noted Bagasao.

Aside from fighting HIV-AIDS, malaria and other killer diseases, the other MDGs are eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality and empowering women; reducing child mortality; improving maternal health; ensuring environmental sustainability; and developing a global partnership for development.

The MDGs are international development goals that all 192 UN member-states and at least 23 international organizations have agreed to achieve by 2015.

With barely five years into the deadline to achieve its MDGs, the country continues to fall short of its sixth MDG,

Citing DOH reports, Bagasao said that here, new infection rates have been going up, not down.

During the first quarter of the year, 483 new HIV cases were reported to the DOH-attached National Epidemiology Center (NEC).

This brought to 6,498 the total number of HIV cases monitored by the NEC between 1984 and 2011.

In the January-March 2010 period, the NEC diagnosed 393 HIV cases, 63 of whom were overseas Filipino workers.

Of the 864 reported AIDS cases during the past 27 years, there were 324 deaths, said the agency.

A total of 616, or 71 percent the AIDS cases were males. Sexual contact was the most common mode of HIV transmission.

Late last year, UNAIDS said that on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most alarming, the HIV-AIDS problem in the Philippines was “five nationally.” But it was “already eight to nine in specific sites mainly associated with officially reported HIV prevalence.”

In the 2010 Global AIDS report released by UNAIDS in November, the country was one of seven nations in the world, which reported over 25 percent in new HIV infections between 2001 and 2009 whereas other states had either stabilized or shown significant declines in the rate of new infections.

Among all countries in Asia, only the Philippines and Bangladesh are reporting increases in HIV cases, with others either stable or decreasing, according to Bagasao.

She pointed out that anti-HIV-AIDS programs here “remain unfunded or under-funded and have not been able to keep up with the change and pace in HIV transmission.”

“More than half of program funding come from external sources…The programs needs a clear investment plan to address not only resource gaps but also sustainability of existing efforts,” Bagasao said, adding “overall, it’s still a health-focused response. Other sectors need to step up their response.” –Jerry E. Esplanada, Philippine Daily Inquirer

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