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Opinion

EDITORIAL - Communities vs AIDS

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - Communities vs AIDS

Since the first case of HIV infection was reported in the Philippines in January 1984, HIV / AIDS prevalence in the country has remained low. In the past decade, however, the country has registered the fastest rate of growth in the number of human immunodeficiency virus infections in the Western Pacific, and one of the fastest in the world.

Studies have shown that between 2012 and 2023, the average increase in daily HIV / AIDS infections in the Philippines stood at 411 percent, with the highest prevalence recorded among men having sex with men. This puts the country under special focus once again as World AIDS Day is marked today.

The message on this special day is that it’s possible to end HIV incidence and deaths from Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, if communities will come together and lead the way. World Health Organization data showed that as of the end of 2022, AIDS had claimed 40.4 million lives globally, with another 39 million living with HIV. In 2022 alone, 630,000 people worldwide died of HIV-related causes, while 1.3 million new infections were recorded.

Much progress has been made in the treatment and prevention of HIV / AIDS since the first confirmed case in the world was reported in 1981. In the Philippines, laws have been passed to promote the welfare of persons living with HIV / AIDS. Republic Act 11166 or the HIV and AIDS Policy Act of 2018 expanded access to HIV testing and treatment, with minors 15 to 17 years old no longer required to obtain parental consent for HIV screening. Self-testing and community-based screening are also being promoted while the number of HIV care and treatment facilities continues to increase.

Still, resources remain limited and the stigma attached to HIV / AIDS persists. The United Nations notes that the campaign to end AIDS continues to suffer from funding shortages, capacity constraints as well as policy and regulatory hurdles. The UN has emphasized that “not ending AIDS is more expensive than ending it.”

Like much of the rest of the world, the Philippines will have to dedicate more resources and effort to the campaign to eliminate HIV / AIDS. “The end of AIDS is possible, it is within our grasp,” UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima declared on the occasion of World AIDS Day. “To follow the path that ends AIDS, the world needs to let communities lead.”

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HIV / AIDS

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