MANILA, Philippines – Outgoing health secretary Janette Garin attributed the rise in the number of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cases among Filipinos to the parallel increase of people who got tested because of the department’s free testing programs.
During the Rappler Talk on Tuesday, June 14, Garin said there were fewer HIV cases in the past because only few people chose to get tested.
“Maraming naging positibo kasi mas naging agresibo tayo sa free testing. Marami na ang nagpapatingin dahil sa Know Your Status campaign,” said Garin.
(Many people tested positive because we became more aggressive in our free testing campaign. Many people are getting tested because of the Know Your Status campaign.)
The Know Your Status campaign is a free testing project launched by the Department of Health (DOH) together with other organizations to address the HIV problem in the Philippines. (READ: Thinking about taking an HIV test? Be brave)
In February 2016, DOH reported 646 new cases of HIV infections, which is the highest number since 1984 when the first case was recorded in the Philippines.
In May 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that Philippines has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world.
This came almost a year after the DOH warned the public that HIV cases concentrated in six cities — half of which are located in Metro Manila – may reach uncontrollable levels in a couple of years.
Garin, however, insisted that the rise in the number of cases is a result of the campaign’s success and highlighted the importance of being diagnosed early.
“But what is the difference now and before? Now we have patients who will turn out positive, i-intercept mo sila sa maagang stage. Hindi pa full-on AIDS. Dati nagtetest ka kasi marami ka ng sintomas ngayon ngtetest ka kasi you want to know your status”, Garin said.
(You can intercept them in an early stage when it’s not yet full on AIDS. Before, people get tested because they already notice the symptoms. Now, they get tested because they want to know their status.)
Acquired immune deficiency syndrome or AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection when the human immune system falls apart leaving the body defenceless.
According to Garin, the campaign also paved the way for testing centers to be established in different provinces and cities in the country. (READ: Youth-friendly HIV testing center opens in Manila)
As of May 2015, there are more than 160 health centers which offer HIV screening all over the country. – Rappler.com
A Journalism student at the University of the Philippines – Diliman, Tessa Barre is a Rappler intern