The United States has committed to provide P875 million to finance the implementation of what it called the new President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief-funded program in the Philippines.
In the observance of World AIDS Day, the US Embassy in Philippines said the launching of the PEPFAR here by the US Agency for International Development, US Centers for Disease Control, US Health Resources and Services Administration and the US Department of Defense was launched to address the increasing number of people who are living with HIV in the country, which has the fastest-growing HIV epidemic in the Asia-Pacific region.
Meanwhile, The Philippine National AIDS Council and the Department of Health recently celebrated this year’s World AIDS Day with the global theme “Global Solidarity, Shared Responsibility.”
This year’s theme recognizes and celebrates the contribution of partners and stakeholders to the HIV response in the country.
Health workers, civil society organizations, people living with HIV and various agencies all play a vital role in eliminating stigma and discrimination, as well as providing accessible testing, treatment, care and support for People Living with HIV.
“Despite the presence of the COVID-19 pandemic, we should all remain focused and resolute in our mandate of preventing and reducing transmission,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said in a statement, adding that an average of 21 new cases were now being reported in the country daily.
The most recent data from the DOH-Epidemiology Bureau of the Philippines showed that more than 110,000 Filipinos were living with HIV in 2020; 37,000 had not been diagnosed, and among those previously diagnosed at least 18,500 still needed to enroll in life-saving antiretroviral therapy.
“This new PEPFAR program will support the Philippine government in reaching the ambitious UNAIDS 95-95-95 targets for HIV epidemic control, meaning 95 percent of those infected with HIV know their
status, 95 percent of those who know their status receive treatment, and 95 percent of those on treatment achieve viral suppression,” the embassy statement said.
Under this new assistance, USAID will work with the Department of Health and local community organizations to implement activities in Metro Manila, Central Luzon and Calabarzon, the highest HIV burden areas in the country where an estimated 63 percent of PLHIV nationwide reside.
The embassy says USAID will expand the country’s prevention strategy through increased access to HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis, strengthen HIV testing and case-finding in the post-COVID era, and connect HIV-diagnosed clients with better HIV treatment regimens and retention programs.
“As a friend, partner and ally of the Filipino people, we remain committed to assisting the Philippine government in addressing this disease so that the country can meet its development objectives in health and progress along its journey to self-reliance,” USAID Acting Mission Director Patrick Wesner said.
“The support also comes at a critical time as the COVID-19 pandemic has hindered HIV testing and treatment coverage. Figures from January to June 2020 show a 41-percent year-on-year decline in new HIV diagnoses and a 51 percent decline in ART initiation from 2019.”