HIV-AIDS (human immunodeficiency virus-acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) cases are on the rise and alarmingly, the new victims are minors, with some as young as 15.
Based on the latest HIV/AIDS registry report, the Department of Health recorded 498 new HIV cases for the month of March, raising the number of total reported cases to 1,432 for the first quarter of this year. Out of this number,146 were reported as AIDs cases.
With the new cases, the number of HIV cases rose to 17,948 since the registry was started in 1984.
Most of the cases or 95% were male. The median age was 28 years (1-67 years old) with the age group 20 to 29 with the most number of cases.
For this year, majority or 1,345 were infected through sexual contact, 86 through needle sharing among injecting drug users and one infected through mother to child transmission. There were 1,292 males and 53 females infected through sexual transmission.
The new cases represent 35% increase in HIV cases compared to the same period last year.
DOH said HIV-AIDS cases have doubled since 2008, putting the Philippines among the countries with growing cases of HIV-AIDS. The other countries with the same trend include Bangladesh, Indonesia Sri Lanka, Kazakhstan, Kyrgstan, Republic of Moldova Georgia and Guinea-Bissau.
With this development, the Philippines might not be able to reach the United Nations (UN) call to reduce the number of HIV and AIDS cases in the country by less than one percent of the general population by 2015 as stated in UN’s Millennium Development Goals.
“This could happen because the government has been remiss in undertaking a massive information campaign to stop the spread of HIV-Aids. It should have been done five years ago to make the Philippines achieve the MDG target that HIV-AIDS cases should be less than one per cent of a country’s population,” said Percival Cendana of the National Youth Commission.”
He said the lack of a national information campaign has affected two generations of people afflicted with HIV-AIDS.
Young people with HIV
Apart from the rising numbers, it is more disturbing that most of the new recorded HIV cases are teenagers, some even as young as 15 years old.
Based on the data from the Philippine HIV/AIDS registry, in January 2014, 118 of the new cases are patients in the 15 to 24-years old bracket.
Advocates attribute this to the youth’s practice of unprotected sex and risky sexual behavior. They usually find sexual partners from texting and the Internet.
“There is a heightened, bolder and wider range of sexual behaviors including those that use the new high speed technology,” said University of the Philippines Population Institute (UPPI) Dean Joy Natividad.
In a 2013 study of the UPPI, youth having premarital sex increased to 32 percent compared to 18 percent in 1994. This translates to 6.2 million Filipino having premarital sex. Out of this data, 4.8 million young people indulge in unprotected sex, 1.4 million engaged in casual sex (with one or more partners which happened only once or twice) and more than half a million or 5.3 percent are males that have had intercourse with other males.
Most of the cases were from Northern Luzon, Metro Manila and Central Philippines. Mindanao has also become a new HIV-AIDS hot spot with 30 of the new cases recorded this quarter coming from the region, according to Dr. Evelyn Magsayo, officer for the sexually-transmitted infection prevention control program of the Department of Health (DOH).
The United Nations Children’s Fund also raised alarm on the disturbing trend in the Philippines. “In some areas, one in three persons most at risk are in the 15 to 17-years old age group,” said UNICEF Country Coordinator Teresita Bagasao. She said that while most countries worldwide have recorded a decline in HIV-AIDS cases, the Philippines is on an upward trend. “It’s worrisome because the new infections that have been reported have come only in the last three years,” she said in report.
Aside from unprotected sex, the lack of knowledge of sexually transmitted diseases is among cause of the rising HIV-AIDS cases. The UPPI study stated that only 17 percent of the youth have comprehensive knowledge of HIV-AIDS.
Amend AIDS prevention law
Because of the rising HIV-AIDS cases especially among the youth, lawmakers have moved to amend Republic Act 8504 or the National AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998. The Philippine Legislator’s Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) said the law “no longer responds to the current challenges of the concentrated HIV epidemic in the Philippines.”
Since 1984, there were 966 reported deaths among people with HIV, 780 of which are males. In total, there had been 113 deaths among youth in the age group 15-24 years old and 15 deaths among children.