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Intensified programs to counter spike in HIV cases needed

Amidst a spike of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) cases nationwide, Senator Win Gatchalian is urging the Department of Health (DOH), the Department of Education (DepEd), and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to strengthen interventions protecting the youth from sexually-transmitted diseases, which entails the full implementation of the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act of 2018 (Republic Act 11166).


NAGA CITY, Philippines – A mobile phone being used at a school in this regional urban center southeast of Manila, Sept. 2016 file image. Senator Win Gatchalian said stakeholders have to go to schools and maximize opportunities to engage young and vulnerable people, and be given access on interventions to nip HIV epidemic. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

At the end of 2019, the DOH’s Epidemiology Bureau reported that 36 new cases were recorded per day, higher than the 35 new cases recorded in July 2019 and the 32 cases documented every day in 2018.

A 2019 report by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) revealed that there are approximately 77,000 people living with HIV in the Philippines, more than 19,000 of which belong to the 15-24 age group.

The UNAIDS also identified the Philippines as the country with the fastest growing number of HIV cases. Between 2010 and 2018, new HIV infections spiked from nearly 4,400 to more than 13,000 or 203 percent. Among these new infections were men who have sex with men (MSMs) which accounted for 81 percent. Only 27.9 percent of these MSMs are covered by prevention programs and 49.8 percent use condoms as a preventive measure.

“Isa sa mga ugat ng sitwasyong kinakaharap natin ngayon ay ang kakulangan ng sapat na impormasyon na maaari sana nating ipalaganap sa ating mga paaralan. Nakakalungkot at nakakabahala na sa kabila ng mga pagsisikap natin, lalo pang dumami ang mga kababayan nating nagkakaroon ng HIV,” said Gatchalian, Chairman of Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.

Gatchalian added that interventions like sexuality education should sound the alarm on social media and dating apps’ role in the rise of the HIV epidemic, citing a two-year United Nations study released in 2015 that said these apps gave Asia’s teenagers expanded options for casual and spontaneous sex.

“For us to defeat this HIV epidemic, we have to go to schools and maximize opportunities to engage young and vulnerable people. And we can’t just teach them what the solutions are, we have to provide them access on those interventions,” Gatchalian added.