DOH warns against aggressive new HIV strain
MANILA, Philippines–The Department of Health (DOH) is seeking to promote an increased awareness of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) among Filipinos following reports of the emergence of a new and more aggressive form of the virus that leads to the faster development of AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
With a new strain of HIV infecting people in other parts of the world, the public should be more informed about the growing prevalence of HIV-AIDS cases in the country, said Acting Health Secretary Janette Garin.
“While it is still HIV and the mode of transmission and approach of treatment are still the same, everybody should be aware of how it can be transmitted, how they can protect themselves from HIV,” Garin told reporters on Tuesday.
According to the DOH, the Philippines has registered 20,478 HIV cases and 2,049 AIDS cases over the past three decades. More than 1,100 people have died of the disease since 1984.
The DOH said it had observed a consistent rise in the number of HIV cases, jumping from 1,591 new cases in 2010 to 6,011 in 2014.
Researchers in the Belgian-based University of Leuven recently discovered a new strain of HIV, identified as CRF19, in Cuba that is said to progress to AIDS at least three times faster than the most common strains of the virus.
International health experts fear the new HIV type could shorten the survival time of patients, particularly if they seek treatment when it is too late.
HIV leads to AIDS, a condition in which the body’s immune system is attacked and damaged by the virus, ultimately leading to death.
In 2013, the World Health Organization issued new HIV treatment guidelines, recommending that antiretroviral therapy be given to HIV patients earlier. Recent studies have shown that earlier medical care helps patients have longer and healthier lives.
Garin said the DOH was helping international scientists learn more about the newly discovered HIV strain by sending them specimen samples of new HIV cases in the country.
“We keep sending them so they could take a look and also study them,” she said.
However, she said it had yet to be determined if the new HIV strain had reached the Philippines. The predominant strain of the virus in the country is HIV-1.
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