Philip­pines has fastest grow­ing HIV in­fec­tions in Asia: UN

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

The Philip­pines has the fastest grow­ing num­ber of HIV in­fec­tions in Asia, a re­port by the United Na­tions and the gov­ern­ment showed yes­ter­day. The South­east Asian na­tion saw a 140 per­cent in­crease in new cases from 2010 to 2016, even though the an­nual num­ber of new in­fec­tions in Asia-Pa­cific de­clined by 13 per­cent over the same pe­riod, ac­cord­ing to the re­port. "The Philip­pines has a small win­dow of op­por­tu­nity to act now and stop a ma­jor HIV epi­demic from tak­ing hold," Ea­monn Murphy, di­rec­tor of UNAIDS Re­gional Sup­port Team said in a state­ment.

He called on the gov­ern­ment to fo­cus anti-HIV ef­forts on those at most risk. Gen­e­sis Sa­monte of the Philip­pine health depart­ment's epi­demi­ol­ogy bureau said eight out of 10 re­ported HIV cases were among men hav­ing sex with men (MSM). "Risky be­hav­iors are start­ing very young," she said, adding that the MSM group on av­er­age started hav­ing sex at 16, and anal sex at 17 be­fore they have started us­ing con­doms or taken HIV tests, in­creas­ing the risk of in­fec­tion.

The re­port also showed that only 35 per­cent of MSM had com­pre­hen­sive knowl­edge of HIV trans­mis­sion and preven­tion. Sa­monte said there were indi­ca­tions that a rise in the use of the In­ter­net and cell­phones was al­low­ing more young peo­ple to have mul­ti­ple part­ners, fur­ther fu­elling the risk of con­tract­ing HIV. Cases will con­tinue to in­crease and bur­den the Philip­pine health sys­tem if the na­tion does not in­vest in preven­tion and treat­ment, ac­cord­ing to Sa­monte. Health Sec­re­tary Paulyn Ubial said that "HIV is one of the top health pri­or­i­ties for the gov­ern­ment," that the bud­get for the dis­ease had been sharply in­creased and her depart­ment aimed to start re­vers­ing the trend in five years. The gov­ern­ment was di­rect­ing its ser­vices to­wards MSM and trans­gen­der women, and open­ing clin­ics in cities where the bulk of the new HIV cases were de­tected, Ubial added. — AFP

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