COVID-19 pandemic derailing PH fight vs HIV, AIDS — Defensor
MANILA, Philippines — The coronavirus pandemic is derailing the country’s fight against AIDS as fewer Filipinos who may be living with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) get tested, Anakalusugan Rep. Mike Defensor said Monday.
Defensor, who serves as the vice chairperson of the House committee on health, said that the Philippines “is facing a new surge in HIV cases on account of ‘disruptions’ caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Citing National AIDS Registry statistics, Defensor said that at the height of lockdowns from April to June 2020, only 934 new HIV cases were detected countrywide, down 68 percent from the 2,938 spotted in the same three-month period in 2019.
Overall, from January to September this year, only 5,627 new HIV cases were diagnosed, down 42 percent from the 9,749 discovered in the same nine-month period in 2019, Defensor said.
“There is only one reason for the big drop in newly reported HIV cases – fewer Filipinos who may be living with HIV are actually getting tested,” Defensor said in a statement.
“Thus, we may have a larger number of undiagnosed and untreated individuals out there contributing to the spread of HIV, mainly through sexual contact, without them knowing it,” the lawmaker added.
Defensor said the country’s fight against AIDS has been set back by the pandemic, leaving thousands of Filipinos living with HIV undiagnosed and untreated.
HIV causes AIDS, or the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, which destroys the human body’s natural ability to ward off all kinds of infections.
Citing the Department of Health, Defensor said that although HIV still does not have any known cure, early diagnosis and antiretroviral therapy (ART) slows the progression of the virus to a near halt and reduces the risk of transmission.
A total of 45,981 Filipinos living with HIV were undergoing ART as of September this year, said Defensor.
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