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EDITORIAL - Getting to zero

In 2012, there were 35.3 million people around the world living with HIV. Of that number, 2.1 million were between 10 and 19 years old. The age group saw a 50 percent increase in AIDS-related deaths last year even as the number among the general population declined by 30 percent from 2005 to 2012, according to the World Health Organization.

The AIDS-HIV problem among adolescents was a focus of concern as World AIDS Day was marked yesterday. From 2011 to 2015, the theme of the special day is, “Getting to zero: zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination, zero AIDS-related deaths.”

It’s an ambitious goal especially in developing countries where many victims cannot afford the drug cocktails used for prolonged treatment of the disease. In the Philippines, health officials have expressed concern over the continuing increase in HIV/AIDS cases, with the biggest rise registered among men having sex with men. On the eve of World AIDS Day, the Department of Health reported that 491 new cases were recorded last October – the highest ever in a month in the Philippines, and 66 percent higher than the cases reported in October 2012. This year, 4,072 HIV/AIDS cases have been reported in this country, bringing to 15,774 the total since the registry for the disease was launched in 1984.

Despite the new cases, the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS says it is beginning to control the global epidemic. The focus of UNAIDS at this time is to promote AIDS prevention, treatment and care for young victims. Counseling and timely testing can go a long way in preventing the spread of HIV among vulnerable groups, according to UNAIDS. Getting to zero is not a farfetched goal.

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