MANILA - Family support encourages persons living with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) to seek treatment, a doctor said Monday.
The Philippines has had "a lot of progress" in HIV awareness but it could still do "a lot more" to prevent its spread, according to Dr. Edsel Salvaña, director of University of the Philippines Manila's Institute of Molecular Biology.
The Department of Health has put up some 20 HIV treatment hubs nationwide and provides free medication, he added.
"We could still do a lot more, especially increasing testing and decreasing stigma because that is really the main barrier to people getting tested. Once we test people, we can have them access care, and once they’re on care they can actually live long and healthy lives," he told ANC's Early Edition.
"A lot of my patients they tell their mothers almost immediately, and their mothers accompany and help them. As Filipinos we’re very close to our families. They really do help out."
The United Nations has a target of 90 percent diagnosed, 90 percent, accessing care, and 90 percent virally suppressed persons living with HIV, according to Salvaña.
The Philippines reaches the last target but loses some 30 percent on following up with their treatment, he added. Some 60 percent Filipinos, meanwhile, have access to treatment.
"There is still a lot of room (for improvement), but of course that 70 percent are thriving, getting their lives back and if their virus is undetectable they are not transmitting the virus," he said.
On preventing the disease, Salvaña said a pre-exposure prophylaxis prescription drug is available in the country for P30 to P50 which can be taken to decrease risk for HIV.
"With any kind of stigma, the solution is always education, we need to get people aware how to protect themselves, and understand that while stigma is there what’s really important is what you’re doing for yourself, are you going to decrease harm to other people," he said.