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HIV spreading via needles

By: - Reporter / @cynchdbINQ
/ 12:54 AM June 10, 2012

A growing number of Filipinos have been infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) as a result of using injecting drugs with contaminated needles, according to Rep. Arnel Ty of the LPG Marketers’ Association (LPG-MA).

Ty said that contaminated needle-sharing among drug users was rapidly emerging as the second leading mode of spread of HIV in the country, next to sexual contact.

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He said the number of fresh infections attributable to needle-sharing had doubled as a percentage of new HIV cases reported.

Of the 1,032 new HIV infections from January to April, at least 96 cases, or 9.3 percent, were due to injectable drug use (IDU).

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“Should the trend persist, we might have around 300 new HIV cases this year due to tainted needle-sharing alone—nearly three times the 110 detected in 2011,” Ty said.

The 110 infections caused by IDU in 2011 comprised only 4.6 percent of the cumulative 2,349 new HIV cases discovered that year.

Ty is one of the authors of House Bill No. 5312, which would earmark P400 million for the launch of a new HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Plan with stronger strategies and definite operating guidelines as well as targets.

“We should avoid what is happening in China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam, where needle-sharing has become a major driving factor in the spread of HIV. In China, almost half of all people hit by HIV are believed to have become infected via IDU,” Ty said.

HIV causes the dreaded Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) which destroys the human body’s immune system. Until now, there is still no known cure for AIDS although expensive antiretroviral treatments can slow down the disease.

The Philippines has the highest abuse rate for methamphetamine hydrochloride, or “shabu,” in East Asia, according to the 2011 United Nations World Drug Report.

Since the hydrochloride salt of methamphetamine is water-soluble, Ty said an increasing number of shabu users could be injecting the drug to get a faster and more powerful high, rather than inhaling or smoking the highly addictive substance.

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The Philippine HIV & AIDS Registry now lists an aggregate of 9,396 cases since 1984, including 361 infections caused by the use of common needles.

Almost all of the 361 infections due to needle-sharing, or 353 cases to be exact, were spotted from 2010 onward, Ty pointed out.

Ty noted that groups of injectable drug users and commercial sex workers in the country often overlap.

“Many sex workers resort to IDU to cope with their stressful trade. Some of them may be using protection against HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Yet, they may be infected on account of reckless needle-sharing,” Ty said.

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TAGS: HIV, HIV cases, HIV/AIDS, Human Immunodeficiency Virus, LGP Marketers’ Association, LPG-MA, Rep. Arnel Ty
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