public health

Aside from COVID-19, Marcos wants DOH to also focus on HIV, TB

Bonz Magsambol
Aside from COVID-19, Marcos wants DOH to also focus on HIV, TB

DISCUSSION. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr meets his cabinet in Malacanang on October 11, 2022.

Office of the President - Presidential Photographers Division

'Let’s start refocusing again on the general public health concerns,' says President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

MANILA, Philippines – Aside from COVID-19, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. ordered the Department of Health (DOH) to prioritize campaign against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and tuberculosis infections.

“Let’s start refocusing again on the general public health concerns. Because [COVID-19] has not come away. [We] still have to deal with it but let’s not deal with COVID-19… at the expense of all these other public health concerns,” Marcos said on Tuesday, December 6.

In the meeting with the President, DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said that the agency encountered challenges in terms of its campaign against HIV during the height of COVID-19 because of restrictions.

“People were not able to go for screening. [They] were not able to get their medicines because of the lockdowns, so what we did during the time of pandemic, we were already sending per individual or per patient their medicines through LBC,” Vergeire said.

Aside from COVID-19, Marcos wants DOH to also focus on HIV, TB

In 2021, there were some 12,300 reported cases of HIV in the Philippines. The majority of these cases were among males.

The Philippines, which has a population of 110 million, has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the Asia-Pacific region, with a 237% increase annually from 2010 to 2022.

Vergeire also said that the DOH is working with lawmakers to fight stigma and discrimination, which have been preventing people from seeking medical attention even if they’re experiencing HIV symptoms.

As for tuberculosis, Vergeire said that the DOH has become “more innovative” and is now going around the country to launch the primary care program that includes TB-DOTS (Directly Observed Therapy).

The DOH official said that tuberculosis has reemerged because of its high transmissibility, and the disease usually affects people from the lower income bracket of society. She added that people can now buy over-the-counter medicines to treat TB.

“So, for example, they have prescriptions that will be given by doctors who just need them… medicines for just one, two months, they will not finish their medicines and they become resistant,” Vergeire said, adding some patients receiving medicines from the government offer them to other people who haven’t consulted a doctor. –

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.