Department of Health (DOH) together with Department of Education (DepEd), non-governmental organizations, and private institutions used the occasion of World AIDS Day last Thursday to launch a multi-faceted effort to address the increase of HIV infections in the Philippines.
DOH statistics showed that about 26 new cases of HIV infection are recorded daily in the Philippines. In June, the DOH recorded 841 new cases – the highest monthly total since the first case of AIDS, the disease caused by HIV, was recorded in the Philippines in 1984.
The health department said that 80 percent of recorded HIV cases in the country have occurred since the year 2011.
To try to stem the increase in HIV infections, the DOH announced it would increase its efforts to raise public awareness, urging Filipinos regardless of lifestyle to be tested for the virus.
World Health Organization (WHO) Country Representative Gundo Aurel Weiler said that self-testing was available to the public. Health Secretey Paulyn Jean Ubial said that the DOH is exploring ways to support self-testing, in the interest of increasing testing rates and avoiding treatment delays.
Secretary Ubial also pointed out that the DOH conducts free HIV testing in Social Hygiene Units run by the local governments and in 26 HIV Treatment Hubs nationwide.
In partnership with DepEd, the DOH will also provide a school information campaign to provide facts about HIV and AIDS and teach students how to limit their exposure.
Ubial said that the DOH is committed to achieve its goals for HIV and AIDS by 2022, which are to increase knowledge of HIV transmission, prevention, and services among 15-24 years old to 90 percent, to prevent all new HIV infections among 15-24 year olds, to test and treat 90 percent of Filipinos living with HIV, and to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
Connect For Life
In a separate development, Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies and Sustained Health Initiatives of the Philippines (SHIP) launched a program that could help reduce the increasing number of HIV/AIDS cases in the country on Tuesday in Makati City.
Connect for Life aims to bridge the gaps in the services to aid thousands of infected Filipinos who often hide their sicknesses due to the surrounding stigma.
“You don’t just treat HIV alone. You also treat everything around them,” said Renier Louie Bona, an HIV counselor.
He said treating HIV/AIDS patients beyond physiological treatment is needed to have a positive impact on them.
Statistics showed that Philippines is one of just seven countries worldwide that has shown increasing numbers in HIV/AIDS cases in recent years.
A significant decrease in these numbers is expected through this program because it connects the patients to their doctors.
The program has four main features: (1) pill reminder, (2) appointment reminder, (3) symptom reporting, and (4) health tips.
Forgetting is often an obstacle to optimal adherence of patients for their medications and appointments.
Through Connect for Life, a registered individual would receive alerts to take their pills and to attend their appointments.
Their adherence will then be recorded on their doctor’s charts for monitoring and evaluation.
The program includes an operator attending to symptom inquiries of patients.
It identifies and explains the gravity of the symptoms to the patient using their native language.
This feature reduces the hassle of traveling to centers and waiting in queues to ask their doctors about their symptoms.
Finally, a health tips feature serves as a nutrition guide of the patients.
This program will be piloted in SHIPS and Philippine General Hospital (PGH).
Johnson and Johnson, Inc. will assist with initial integration of the program.