Among the 6 cities exceeding the national HIV prevalence rate of 3.5% among males who have sex with males (MSM), Caloocan City is the ‘most problematic’
The Department of Health (DOH) has warned that an HIV “concentrated epidemic” in 6 Philippine cities – half found in Metro Manila – may reach “uncontrollable” levels in a couple of years without the active cooperation of the public.
Dr Jose Gerard Belimac, program manager of DOH’s National HIV/STI Prevention Program, made the statement in a presentation in an epidemiology workshop conducted by the DOH on Thursday, April 9.
The DOH identified the 6 cities and their corresponding prevalence rate among males who have sex with males (MSM) as the following:
- Quezon City – 6.6%
- Manila – 6.7%
- Caloocan – 5.3%
- Cebu – 7.7%
- Davao – 5.0%
- Cagayan de Oro – 4.7%
“According to the World Health Organization, ‘pag lumagpas yan ng 5%, in a matter of two years’ time, the HIV in these areas will really be uncontrollable already so lessons learned, huwag po talagang hayaan na umabot ng 5% yung HIV prevalence in any of the cities,” Belimac said in his presenation.
(According to the World Health Organization, if the prevalence rate exceeds 5%, in a matter of two years’ time, the HIV in these areas will really be uncontrollable already so lessons learned, let us not allow the HIV prevalence in any of the cities to reach 5%.)
This is based on experiences of other countries like Thailand, he said in an interview at the sidelines of the workshop, when asked to clarify his statement.
Caloocan city ‘most problematic’
Belimac said Caloocan is the “most problematic” city with a high HIV prevalence rate because most infections happen among male sex workers.
In Manila, most infections happen among males who have casual sex with other males.
The table below shows other high risk areas in the country:
HIGH RISK AREAS
- National Capital Region (16 cities and municipalities)
- San Jose del Monte, Bulacan
- Sta Rosa, Laguna
OTHER HIGH PREVALENCE CITIES
- Cagayan de Oro City
- Zamboanga City
The DOH reported a total of 646 new cases of HIV infections in February – the highest number since the Philippines’ first case in 1984. This number translates to 21 new infections every day.
Most of the cases (586 out of 646) were infected through sexual contact. About 84% of the 586 cases are MSM.
Belimac said the HIV prevalence rate among MSM has dramatically increased since 2007, from 0.30% to 3.50% in 2013.
This means 3.5 out of 100 MSM are infected with the virus.
On condom use to prevent HIV infection, Belimac said in Filipino, “We cannot force those who don’t want to use condoms.”
He said that the condom use prevalence among MSM is at 35% – far from the government target of 80%.
The DOH is currently doing behavioral, bio-medical, and structural interventions to control HIV infections among Filipino MSM.
The health department’s National HIV/STI Prevention Program has a 2015 budget of about P500 million ($11.24 million), 60% of which will go to the treatment of patients.
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said the Philippines
What Is HIV?
“HIV” stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. To understand what that means, let’s break it down:
H – Human – This particular virus can only infect human beings.
I – Immunodeficiency – HIV weakens your immune system by destroying important cells that fight disease and infection. A “deficient” immune system can’t protect you.
V – Virus – A virus can only reproduce itself by taking over a cell in the body of its host.
HIV is a lot like other viruses, including those that cause the “flu” or the common cold. But there is an important difference – over time, your immune system can clear most viruses out of your body. That isn’t the case with HIV – the human immune system can’t seem to get rid of it. That means that once you have HIV, you have it for life.
We know that HIV can hide for long periods of time in the cells of your body and that it attacks a key part of your immune system – your T-cells or CD4 cells. Your body has to have these cells to fight infections and disease, but HIV invades them, uses them to make more copies of itself, and then destroys them.
Over time, HIV can destroy so many of your CD4 cells that your body can’t fight infections and diseases anymore. When that happens, HIV infection can lead to AIDS, the final stage of HIV infection.
However, not everyone who has HIV progresses to AIDS. With proper treatment, called “antiretroviral therapy” (ART), you can keep the level of HIV virus in your body low. ART is the use of HIV medicines to fight HIV infection. It involves taking a combination of HIV medicines every day. These HIV medicines can control the virus so that you can live a longer, healthier life and reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to others. Before the introduction of ART in the mid-1990s, people with HIV could progress to AIDS in just a few years. Today, a person who is diagnosed with HIV and treated before the disease is far advanced can have a nearly normal life expectancy.
No safe and effective cure for HIV currently exists, but scientists are working hard to find one, and remain hopeful.
What Is AIDS?
“AIDS” stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. To understand what that means, let’s break it down:
A – Acquired – AIDS is not something you inherit from your parents. You acquire AIDS after birth.
I – Immuno – Your body’s immune system includes all the organs and cells that work to fight off infection or disease.
D – Deficiency – You get AIDS when your immune system is “deficient,” or isn’t working the way it should.
S – Syndrome – A syndrome is a collection of symptoms and signs of disease. AIDS is a syndrome, rather than a single disease, because it is a complex illness with a wide range of complications and symptoms.
As noted above, AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection, and not everyone who has HIV advances to this stage. People at this stage of HIV disease have badly damaged immune systems, which put them at risk for opportunistic infections (OIs).
You are considered to have progressed to AIDS if you have one or more specific OIs, certain cancers, or a very low number of CD4 cells. If you have AIDS, you will need medical intervention and treatment to prevent death.