On World AIDS Day, health chief seeks to break HIV stigma

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 01 2017 12:24 PM | Updated as of Dec 01 2017 09:10 PM

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III (center) joins USec Bayugo, World Health Organization representative Rajendra Yadav and HIV/AIDS advocates during a press conference in observance of the World AIDS day at the Department of Health headquarters in Manila on Friday. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

MANILA- The Department of Health on Friday urged Filipinos to be sensitive to the feelings of those living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Health Chief Francisco Duque III in a press briefing during World AIDS Day, called upon the public not to stigmatize people living with HIV.

"We have to be sensitive also to their feelings at alam naman natin na malalim na ang kanilang problema. Huwag na nating dadagdagan pa ito sa paraan na malalagay sila sa kahihiyan," he told reporters.

(We already know that they have a big problem. Let us not add to their problems by placing them in an embarrassing situation)

"Let's not stigmatize our people suffering from HIV/AIDS," he added.

The prevalence rate of HIV in the Philippines remains at less than one percent, Duque said, but noted that the virus continues to pose "significant threat" to Filipino families.

Since 1984 to August 2017, Duque said a total of 46,985 HIV cases have been reported to the Department of Health. This number is expected to go up to 142,000 by year 2022.

Most of reported HIV cases are concentrated in key populations who engage in "risky behavior," with 2 in 3 new cases coming from the age group of 15 to 24 years old, he said.

From January to August 2017, majority or 84 percent of reported HIV cases are males who engaged in sexual activity with males, Duque said.

Duque urged people living with HIV to gain access to antiretroviral therapy.

"We urge those who are diagnosed with to come forward and access the life-saving antiretroviral drugs in all our DOH-designated HIV treatment facilities," he said.