HIV infections down worldwide, up in Philippines
New HIV infections and deaths from AIDS-related illness are falling worldwide, except in the Philippines and Bangladesh, where the number of new HIV cases continues to rise.
In its November 21 report, the United Nations Program on HIV-AIDS (UNAIDS) disclosed that “since 1997, new infections (worldwide) have been reduced by 21 percent while deaths from AIDS-related illnesses decreased by 21 percent since 2005.”
But the Philippines was one of seven nations in the world which reported a surge in new HIV infections of over 25 percent, said the 2010 Global AIDS report released by UNAIDS.
UNAIDS said that on a scale of one to 10—with 10 being the most alarming—the HIV-AIDS problem in the Philippines was “five nationally.” But it was “already eight to nine in specific sites mainly associated with officially reported HIV prevalence.”
When contacted, the UNAIDS office in Manila noted that the Philippines had not been making progress in meeting its sixth Millennium Development Goal, which is halting and reversing the spread of the dreaded HIV-AIDS.
UNAIDS social mobilization adviser Merceditas Apilado called the Philippines “one of the exceptions in the region.”
“The number of HIV infections and AIDS cases here continue to go up, not down,” Apilado told the Inquirer.
Earlier, Teresita Marie Bagasao, head of the UNAIDS-Manila office, observed “current efforts are not enough to reverse Department of Health estimates of a five-fold increase in new HIV infections in the next five years.”
“We need to act now and invest in the right programs and policies that foster government, civil society and private sector partnership in the prevention of the disease,” said Bagasao.
She pointed out that anti-HIV-AIDS programs here “remain unfunded or underfunded and have not been able to keep up with the change and pace in HIV transmission.”
UNAIDS said there were an estimated 34 people living with HIV worldwide in 2010, but since 2005, AIDS-related deaths have decreased from 2.2 million to 1.8 million in 2010.
“About 2.5 million deaths are estimated to have been averted in low- and middle-income countries due to increased access to HIV treatment,” it said.
The human immuno-deficiency virus, or HIV leads to AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, a condition in which the body’s immune system is attacked, weakened and disabled by the virus, ultimately leading to death.
HIV is transmitted through sex or blood transfusion.
“People living with HIV are living longer and AIDS-related deaths are declining due to the lifesaving effects of antiretroviral therapy,” UNAIDS said.