AFP/Google.com Examines HIV/AIDS in PhilippinesAFP/Google.com on Tuesday examined HIV/AIDS in the Philippines and efforts by local health care workers and advocates to address the disease. According to United Nations data that is based on government figures, about 8,600 people were living with HIV last year. This compares with 610,000 in neighboring Thailand, 290,000 in Vietnam and 75,000 in Cambodia. Roberto Ruiz, who is on the board of trustees of the Positive Action Foundation Philippines, said that the actual number of people living with HIV in the country is higher. "The true number is probably fast approaching 10,000" he said. Ruiz added that local and international health officials used to say that HIV/AIDS prevalence in the Philippines was "low and slow" but now is "hidden and growing."
World Health Organization country representative Soe Nyunt-u said that the 40 to 45 HIV/AIDS cases reported monthly this year in the Philippines is almost double the monthly cases from last year. He added that 59 new cases were recorded in October and that the number of annual new cases has increased from 454 during the first 10 months of this year, compared with 309 in 2006 and 342 in 2007. "This is just the tip of the iceberg," Nyunt-u said, adding that the "real number could be much higher than this" and that many cases go unrecorded.
According to Ruiz, it is "alarming" that many HIV/AIDS cases now are being recorded outside "traditional high-risk groups" such as injection drug users, commercial sex workers, migrant workers and men who have sex with men. He added that young people in particular are at an increased risk of the virus. According to Ruiz, health officials have recorded 481 HIV/AIDS cases among people ages 15 to 24, with 50 cases recorded among children younger than age 15. "There really needs to be a greater government focus on education and prevention programs before it explodes," Ruiz said, adding that programs should be implemented in schools as well as workplaces.
Although the Philippines has been credited with implementing effective HIV/AIDS initiatives aimed at marginalized groups, there are still "some obstacles," AFP/Google.com reports. The Roman Catholic Church has opposed sex education and the promotion of condom use, which makes it unlikely that the country will implement the HIV/AIDS prevention programs that were successful in countries such as Thailand, Massimo Ghidinelli, a WHO adviser on HIV/AIDS, said. "Each country has its own cultural set-up," Ghidinelli said, adding, "It doesn't mean there can't be proper intervention" (Macaraig, AFP/Google.com, 12/16). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.