Rise in HIV cases alarms Palace

Malacañang has asked the Department of Health to intensify the information campaign on HIV/AIDS cases

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang is alarmed by the 72% increase in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cases in the country in February, compared to the same period last year. It has ordered the Department of Health (DOH) to step up its information drive against the disease.

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda noted the latest figures from the Department of Health (DOH) on 274 HIV-positive cases last month, 72 % more than the 159 cases in February 2011.

“We find it alarming. That’s the reason why we have asked Secretary Ona to ensure that further information measures be done in the prevention of AIDS,” Lacierda said.

He said that the thrust of the DOH in the fight against HIV/AIDS is to ensure that preventive measures are being undertaken.

“This is a personal decision on the part of the people who are engaged in those activities, but we continue to promote education on the prevention of  HIV/AIDS in the country,” Lacierda said.

Free treatment

DOH records also showed that a total of 2,087 individuals with HIV were receiving free anti-retroviral treatment (ART) as of January 2012.

But Dr Gerard Belimac, DOH program manager for National AIDS/Sexuality Transmitted Infection, said not all HIV cases need ART.

Belimac explained that it depends on a person’s conditions: if he has opportunistic infections or if the level of CD4 count, a parameter of HIV progression into AIDS, falls below 300.

He said that the 2,087 cases constitute 95% of all HIV cases that need ART.  He advised infected individuals to consult the various treatment hubs in the country to closely monitor their conditions.

The treatment hubs are in the following: Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center; Ilocos Training and Regional Medical Center; Cagayan Valley Medical Center; Jose B. Lingad Medical Center; San Lazaro Hospital; Philippine General Hospital; Research Institute for Tropical Medicine; Makati Medical Center; The Medical City; Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital; Western Visayas Medical Center; Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital; Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center; Gov. Celestino Gallares Memorial Hospital; Zamboanga City Medical Center and Southern Philippines Medical Center.

ART is free in these hubs, courtesy of the DOH and Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Belimac said once a patient starts on ART, he or she must take the medication for life. – Rappler.com

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