MANILA — A health official on Thursday urged the public to stop stigmatizing those infected with human immunodeficiency virus, underscoring that the disease is "not a punishment from God."
"There is still a lot of stigma around HIV. Kasama na din dito 'yung hindi paggamit ng prevention, mga maling akala pagdating sa transmission ng HIV," said Dr. Edsel Salvaña, an infectious diseases expert who is also part of the Department of Health’s Technical Advisory Group.
"Tanggalin po natin ang stigma dahil hindi naman ito kaparusahan ng Diyos. Kung nagkakaroon ka ng sakit dahil masama kang tao, eh ‘di dapat marami nang politicians ang nagkaroon ng HIV, lalo na 'yung mga kurakot," he said.
(Let us remove the stigma because this is not a punishment from God. If it's true that you get sick because you are an evil person, many politicians should have gotten HIV by now, especially the corrupt.)
Salvaña gave the statement in a televised public briefing when asked for his thoughts on a study that showed that of the 1,000 HIV cases logged in January, 86 patients were youngsters.
"Alarming po talaga in terms of the number of cases kasi tuloy-tuloy 'yan since 2006," he said.
(That is alarming in terms of the number of cases because it has continued since 2006.)
The Philippines has one of the highest numbers when it comes to the speed of HIV contagion, the expert said, but did not give a specific figure.
"Yung ating sub-lineage is a little more aggressive than in other countries so kinakailangan po talaga mag-ingat (we should be careful)," he added.
The government has been providing HIV treatments for free, Salvaña noted.
"Anybody can get HIV, kahit baby nga kung hindi nabigyan ng gamot 'yung nanay," he said.
"Kung mahawa ka man, napaka-effective po nung ating anti-retroviral treatment. Ito po ay libre. Mayroon po tayong HIV treatment hubs all over the country," he added.
(Anybody can get HIV, even the baby of an untreated mother. If you are infected, our anti-retroviral treatment is very effective. This is free. We have HIV treatment hubs all over the country.)
Despite the program, the Philippines can only improve its battle against HIV if the public will “see HIV as a biomedical illness and that it has a treatment, has prevention," the doctor said.
"We should remove the stigma para matulungan po natin 'yung mga nagkakaroon ng HIV dahil it is possible naman to live a long life with HIV," he said.
"Kapag nagamot naman ay hindi na nakakahawa as long as suppressed yung virus," he added.
(We should remove the stigma so that we can help those who get HIV because it is still possible to live a long life with HIV. If treated, it cannot be transmitted as long as the virus is suppressed.)