Pia hailed new champion for kids, youths with HIV
Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) - January 28, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines – The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) has welcomed Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach as the “new champion for children and young people who are at risk of HIV.”

In a statement, Unicef Philippines representative Lotta Sylwander said that Wurtzbach’s influence could help end the silence against this hidden epidemic that is happening in our midst.

“Young people have the right to health and survival, and that includes giving them information that they need to prevent HIV,” she noted.

Wurtzbach had recently called on Filipinos to increase awareness on HIV when she graced the Bb. Pilipinas Charity Day during her homecoming.

She spoke with advocates and young people living with HIV.

Sylwander claimed that discrimination, poverty, inequalities and harsh laws often prevent adolescents from seeking and receiving treatment.

“We must work on innovative ideas and new ways of working with children and adolescents to reverse the epidemic and bring us closer to an AIDS-free generation,” she added.

Doctors belonging to the Philippine College of Physicians Foundation yesterday lauded Wurtzbach for taking up the HIV prevention advocacy as her mission because this will greatly help generate awareness on the problem.

PCP Foundation president Anthony Leachon said Pia “can be most effective if she will partner with professional societies like the PCP, and HIV advocacy groups to leverage her world-wide popularity to raise awareness, neutralize stigma, and save lives.”

According to Edsel Maurice Salvana, director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the National Institute of Health at the University of the Philippines, the first cases of HIV in the Philippines were diagnosed in 1984.

Between 1984 and 2005, HIV case rates locally were some of the lowest in the world, with about one case diagnosed every two days.

“Since 2006, the number of newly diagnosed HIV-positive Filipinos has skyrocketed. From one case a day in 2006, we now have an average of one new case an hour,” Salvana added.

He said the epidemic is currently concentrated in men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) but is poised to spill over into the general population as the proportion of HIV-positive MSMs has gone above fve percent nationwide.

“This phenomenon is not confined to Metro Manila. In fact the highest prevalence of HIV in MSM in the Philippines is Cebu, at 14 percent, followed by Cagayan de Oro at 9.3 percent. Puerto Princesa is at 7.7 percent and Quezon City at 7.4 percent. We are currently seeing more and more HIV-positive women, including pregnant women,” he added.

ACIRC ANTHONY LEACHON EDSEL MAURICE SALVANA HIV INSTITUTE OF MOLECULAR BIOLOGY AND BIOTECHNOLOGY LOTTA SYLWANDER METRO MANILA MISS UNIVERSE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF HEALTH PHILIPPINE COLLEGE OF PHYSICIANS FOUNDATION WURTZBACH
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