EDITORIAL – Drastic action vs HIV/AIDS
(The Philippine Star) - October 23, 2019 - 12:00am

In the past years, public awareness has risen about the HIV/AIDS problem in the Philippines. There have been persons living with HIV/AIDS who have come out in the open to further heighten public awareness of risky behaviors associated with contracting the AIDS-causing human immunodeficiency virus.

And yet the Philippines now has the fastest rate of HIV infection in the entire Asia-Pacific region, according to the World Health Organization. The biggest numbers are being recorded among men having sex with men, mostly in the prime of their life, with two out of three new infections occurring among those aged 15 to 24.

By 2025, according to UNAIDS or the United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, the number of Filipinos living with HIV is expected to hit 201,000 – a leap from just 56,000 in 2016 and the projected 142,000 in 2022. Several of the cares are likely to progress into full-blown Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

The spread can’t be for lack of information or interventions. Two laws have been passed to promote the welfare of persons living with HIV/AIDS. The second one, Republic Act 11166 or the HIV and AIDS Policy Act of 2018, provides substantial free medical care to infected persons, from diagnosis to the drug cocktails that have become advanced enough to allow them to enjoy relatively healthy, normal lives.

RA 11166 also penalizes various forms of discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS. And yet despite the law, well meaning as it is, eradicating the stigma attached to the potentially deadly disease is a work in progress. Persons with HIV/AIDS continue to worry about losing their jobs if their affliction becomes known to their employers and co-workers. Some even shun testing, and consequently spread the disease. Others are in denial, believing AIDS happens only to others. Still others remain blissfully unaware of HIV/AIDS and risky behaviors.

These are the individuals who need to be reached by a ramped up campaign to achieve UNAIDS Philippines’ objective of “zero stigma and discrimination” among infected persons. At the current rate of infection, drastic action is needed to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.

HIV INFECTION WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION
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