MANILA, 8 March 2011 (PlusNews) - Newly reported HIV infections among young
people have increased 10-fold in the past three years in the Philippines,
one of only seven countries worldwide where overall infections continue to
climb, according to the government.
While youths aged 15-24 accounted for 12 percent of newly reported
infections in 2007 (41 out of a total 342 infections), this figure jumped to 31
percent three years later (489 out of 1,591 infections), according to the
National HIV/AIDS Registry.
Since the first case of HIV was diagnosed in the country in 1984, the Philippines has
had a less than 1 percent rate of infection among the general population.
However, in recent years, the number of HIV cases among high-risk groups has
grown at an alarming rate, according to the Department of Health.
Transmission is now primarily among men having sex with men as opposed to
heterosexual couples in 2007, said Eric Tayag with the Department of Health's National Epidemiology Center.
In 2010, there were 1,591 new HIV diagnoses, a 90 percent increase from
the reported 835 infections in 2009, itself a 58 percent increase over the
Against the trend
Worldwide, the rate of HIV infection is decreasing or under control, according
to the Global AIDS Report of 2010.
But there is a "public health crisis in the offing" in the Philippines,
said Jonas Bagas, vice-chair of The Library Foundation Share Collective (TLF),
and adviser to the Philippine National AIDS Council.
"More will be infected, lives will be lost and the economy will be
burdened. We're looking at millions of pesos going to treatment, care and
support for an epidemic that can be prevented. It is a red flag for the
government that its prevention efforts, largely premised on abstinence, are not
working," he said.
Humphrey Gorriceta, 35, spokesman for the National Federation of Filipinos
with HIV and AIDS, who was diagnosed positive at 32, said young people were
passing on the virus without even knowing it.
"I think what is happening is a lot of blind transmission. The young
people don't know what they're up against... culturally, sex and sexuality are
topics that are not discussed among young people."
Jerson See, 22, was diagnosed four years ago. "I was getting sick a lot
and couldn't find the cause... I, of course, had heard of HIV already at that
time. But I had never met nor did I know someone who was living with HIV,"
said See who traced the cause of his infection to unprotected sex.
Unprotected sex remains the primary mode of HIV transmission. Eighty-nine
percent of those infected in the Philippines in 2010 acquired
the virus through intercourse, according to the National HIV/AIDS Registry.
Among high-risk groups, the Philippines
has the lowest condom use in Asia - at about
20-30 percent, according to the Geneva-based International
Cecille Villa, executive director of the local NGO, Foundation for
Adolescent Development, which runs a youth sexual health counselling hotline,
said youths naturally feel invincible.
"Though they are aware of consequences, they do not think that HIV is
a reality that can happen to them... We need to develop programmes that are
specific to the youth and their concerns instead of a general - one fits all -
approach to HIV."
Organization：Foundation for Adolescent
The International AIDS Society