More HIV/AIDS cases coming to light in the Philippines

According to this article from Reuters, “the Philippines has a lower incidence of HIV than most of its neighbors despite sharing many of the risks, but health officials warned on Thursday that many new cases were now coming to light.”

It is being suggested that more people disclosing their HIV-positive status because they can actually afford treatment now.  According to a Health Ministry official, antiretroviral medications became available for free in the last two years.  (This says a lot about the benefits of affordable treatment and drug access: not only are more people getting the medicine they need, health officials are getting a better sense of the actual demographics of the disease, and people are lesss likely to hide their status, which I would think could help reduce transmission rates.)

Though HIV rates in the Philippinses are turning out to be higher than previously thought, the country’s prevalence rate is still considered low, “meaning that less than 0.1 percent of the population and less than 5.0 percent of people in high-risk groups were infected.” *   As the Reuters article points out, this “was despite the low usage of condoms in the Catholic-majority country.”  (I’d be curious to know what different groups make of this interesting point.)

According to the article,

“In the Philippines, the low partner exchange, the frequency or the number of male clients (of prostitutes) frequenting other partners, the contributory factor of circumcision, those are some of the conditions that have somehow kept the HIV prevalence low,” said Bai Bagaso, UNAIDS representative for the country.

“But what we’re saying is it does mask the threat because it might not reveal the changes in the way HIV is spreading.”

This has caused Mario Villaverde, an undersecretary in the Department of Health, to describe HIV/AIDS in the Philippines as “hidden and growing.”
 

* For the sake of comparison, the estimated HIV/AIDS prevalence among adults is estimated at 26.1% in Swaziland, the country with the highest prevalence, 0.6% in the United States, and 0.8% globally — thanks to GlobalHealthFacts.org for those numbers.

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~ by h.e.g. on August 29, 2008.

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