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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Philippines’ HIV incidence quadruples over a decade; DOH launches U=U campaign vs AIDS epidemic

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The Philippines is facing a significant increase in HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) incidence and AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome)-related deaths, with current figures being four times higher than those recorded from 2012 to 2023, according to the Department of Health (DOH).

Data from the HIV/AIDS and ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP) has prompted urgent action. In response, the DOH is rolling out comprehensive strategies including expanded HIV testing, improved facilities, and enhanced treatment protocols to address the growing epidemic.

A key component of these efforts is the introduction and promotion of the “Undetectable = Untransmittable” (U=U) campaign, formalized under Department Circular No. 2024-0181.

The U=U initiative underscores that people living with HIV (PLHIV), who achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load through treatment cannot sexually transmit the virus to others.

This message is crucial in combating the spread of HIV and achieving the global targets of 95-95-95: 95 percent of PLHIV knowing their status, 95 percent of those who know their status receiving treatment, and 95 percent of those on treatment achieving viral suppression.

Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa emphasized the importance of the U=U message, stating ‘undetectable HIV is untransmittable HIV.’

“Let us fight the stigma associated with HIV, so that more people living with the condition may start treatment that will enable them to live happy and healthy lives in a ‘Bagong Pilipinas’ (New Philippines), where every life is important,” Herbosa underscored.

In a concerted effort to spread awareness and combat the HIV epidemic, the DOH with the Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC), the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Philippines program under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) recently held a five-day workshop from June 3-7, 2024 in Pasay City.

Also present were representatives from organizations such as LoveYourself, Inc., the HIV Epidemic Control (EpIC) Project of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the American International Health Alliance (AIHA).

The workshop focused on the U=U campaign and provided a detailed overview of the current status of the HIV/AIDS program in the Philippines.

It served as a platform for developing communication strategies and interventions aimed at empowering key populations and vulnerable groups with the knowledge and tools to advocate for increased access to HIV treatment and care.

The DOH is also driving aggressive demand generation activities to ensure that HIV and AIDS services are readily available in communities, as part of its 8-Point Action Agenda.

With these coordinated efforts, the DOH and its partners aim to curb the rising HIV incidence and ensure that those affected receive the care and support they need.


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