UNAIDS: Fighting the exponential increase of HIV infection among core populations in the country..

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After listening to  Mr. Johnson  from ILO, we also  had the opportunity  to hear from   Ms. “Bai” BAGASAO, Teresita Marie P.  o f UNAIDS, she is  the Country Coordinator for the Philippines. When I  saw her the first time, I  thought  of  her as a lady of  refinement and good  culture; the more I agreed to myself  when she started  talking about t he agency. She is so “mahinhin” and “mayumi” in  Tagalog. These attributes  did not  make her hold  back on  making her point about why is HIV infection and  AIDS becoming an exponentially increasingly important subject matter  and a national issue for our country.  Here are a few facts for you  to picture how  urgent we need to act  on this as a nation the fastest  we can.

HIV infection  at its peak in  NCR and Cebu.
HIV infection at its peak in NCR and Cebu.

Fast Facts (2011)

HIV Prevalence (Adults): 0.04%  or 40 per 100,000 [0.03% – 0.05%]

Filipinos Living with HIV: 19,000 [15,800 – 24,500]

Estimated New Infections: 5,500 [3,400 – 9,100] 15 new cases per day

Reported New Infections: 2,349, 6 reported cases per day

 

Fast Facts (2012)
HIV Prevalence (Adults): 
0.04%  or 40 per 100,000 [0.03% – 0.05%]

Filipinos Living with HIV: 24,000 [17,000 – 28,000]

Estimated New Infections: 5,000 [3,400 – 9,100] 15 new cases per day

Reported New Infections: 3,3389 reported cases per day

For  a span of only one year, there is  a 5,000 count increase of people living with  HIV and these are only the reported cases. Ms. Bai noted  that  the problem  with  HIV/AIDS is its silence. With the  norms our culture  has,  one person  who knows  he/she is infected will face a critical  decision  to accept and come out as such  or  remain  hidden which  will in turn result to preventable  infections. It’s hard to halt the  spread of this viral infection if it  remains unidentified since it is asymptomatic for a long period of time, as long as 10 years.

Now, when Ms. Bai was showing us  a few charts  and graphs, it  was very  alarming to see that  the  cause of  the spread  is 1. Unprotected  Sex and 2. Sharing of  needles among  illegal drug users. The first  is widespread in the  National  Capital  Region and the latter is most commonly charted in the  Cebu  region. She explained to us  that the issue  of  unprotected  sex is  apparently more concentrated  to  Men having sex with  Men (MSM), especially in the  Metro. It’s frightening to think nowadays that the liberation of Society’s sexual preferences and casuality  is causing irreversible damages to the lives of many, even the innocent. The group was also  reminded that these men who have sex with the same gender are not  necessarily single or out socially as homosexuals. They might have wives, families and friends who are not even  aware and are the most  vulnerable of  being infected. In terms of infection,  there are three main types that  HIV  can be passed on: a. Direct transmission (blood) b. Sexual intercourse c. Mother-to-baby. It has been documented that infected  people  who  are identified the earliest have good  chances of  extending quality  life, this is  because  HIV is a retro  virus and we already  have anti-retroviral drugs  available. Although they  don’t eradicate the disease, these medications maintain the viral count on our body at the level where we do not develop the  infection into a full blown disease.

In the  Philippines, there is much to learn and much to do about  HIV/AIDS. For one, screening is not mandated by the  government another is, the social stigma of being  exposed to be as one having casual or unprotected sex is a major issue for a person, what more if this would make him/her identified as an infected person. Being uninformed or misinformed creates different stigmas to society  that does not help solve the problem at all. My take on this is, I call out everybody to not only practice safe sex but also have the open mind to accept and realize that this is not only a matter of health. It is also a social, political, economical, psychological and moreover a very intimate issue. My point exactly is, if you are  not infected somebody you know or close to you might be or probably will be and the best  way to stop this is be an advocate of its prevention.

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Be involved…. Be committed……