Pinoys getting HIV faster, AIDS council warns

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 12 2014 11:54 PM | Updated as of Feb 13 2014 07:54 AM

MANILA -- The Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC) on Wednesday revealed that in 2013, 1 Filipino got infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) every 1 hour and 42 minutes.

"Ganun kabilis if you will compare in 2007, 1 Filipino per 24 hours," PNAC Secretary General Ferhcito Avelino said.

Asked if this means a lot of people are disregarding warnings against unsafe sex, Avelino said: “It’s a tricky question. Ang tinitignan natin, is there really behavior modification being practiced? Responsible sexual behavior na not only looking at pleasure but thinking and being mindful of the responsibility that goes with such act?”

“Mababa kasi ang condom use rate, mapapansin natin. We still need to promote and encourage people who are actively sexually na mag-practice ng safer sex behavior. The only way to do that is protecting their partner from infection using a condom,” he said.

Avelino said his council is not pushing for mandatory testing but a health service provider should initiate it.

“Hindi na dapat hintayin ng provider na humingi ng information ang tao, but dapat maging active sila na kausapin ang pasyente to go through the process of assessing risk to HIV. Kung may nakita na risk, encourage na bigyan ng enabling environment para magpa-test,” he said.

HIV testing, he said, is free in the country. If a patient tests positive, there are facilities and services available for free.

“Kahit positive ka, maagapan agad at mabibigyan ng lunas para you can still be productive,” he added.

According to Avelino, despite the increased awareness on HIV/AIDS, there are still a lot of misconceptions about it.

“Maraming naniniwala na nasasalin sa kagat ng lamok, pakikipaghalikan. These lead to stigma and discrimination. Pati lamok nadi-discriminate. We need to address these not only by giving out information but in addressing misconceptions,” he noted.

Meanwhile, Avelino also wants HIV/AIDS education included in high school and college education.

“Most reported cases ay nasa 15 to 34 years old. Normally di 'ba, may concept dapat na mababa ang pinag-aralan? You’ll be surprised that most people contracting HIV are educated. Inglisero, maporma,” Avelino said.

PNAC is part of a technical working group in Congress working on a legislation meant to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS. Avelino said PNAC wants to boost government spending in response to HIV/AIDS. Currently, PNAC’s budget is only P20 million.