PH urged to have ‘open discussion’ on sexuality to fight HIV spread

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THE World Health Organization (WHO) urged the Philippines to have an “open discussion” about sexuality and on the solutions to combat the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) to help bring down its rate of new infections, which is currently the highest in the Asia-Pacific region.

While the Philippines has several health interventions to help address HIV, awareness on the proper behavior to prevent the transmission of the disease as well as on its risks especially to vulnerable sectors remain wanting, according to WHO representative to the Philippines Gundo Weiler.

“There’s not enough awareness of the seriousness of the situation and we do see that too many people are still engaging in unsafe sexual behaviors in key populations. I think one of the biggest problems is that people do not feel sufficiently that HIV is an issue for them,” Weiler said.

That is why he said that it’s important for the predominantly Roman Catholic country to talk about sexuality openly, especially among the youth, for them to have a “good understanding about the potential risks” as well as to be knowledgeable of the ways on how they can protect themselves.

“As a baseline effort, we do really need to make HIV an issue for all communities, something that should be discussed openly in communities, families, friends, so that people can adopt safe behaviors and protect themselves and their loved ones from HIV,” Weiler said.

As of July, there are already 57,134 confirmed HIV cases in the country since reporting began in 1984. HIV cases from January to July this year was the highest recorded so far at 6,532 new infections. In the same period last year, there were 6,253 cases, while in 2016, there were 5,393 cases.

Based on current trends, the Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC) warned that the number of people with HIV in the country could quadruple to 265,900 cases in 2028 should interventions remain wanting and vulnerable sectors, such as men having sex with men (MSM), continue to engage in risky behaviors.

According to PNAC director Joselito Feliciano, addressing the upsurge in HIV cases in the country remains to be an issue as one’s behavior is a key factor to it. He noted that while some individuals do know of the risks of HIV, this does not necessarily translate to them practicing what they know. —

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