Tell It to SunStar: Aids-related deaths on the rise

By Anak Kalusugan Rep. Michael Defensor, House committee on health vice chairman

EVERY 12 hours, a Filipino–most likely male and aged between 15 to 34 years old–is dying of severe health complications from the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

The growing number of deaths among Filipinos with HIV is unacceptable, considering the availability of free treatment that can allow them to enjoy almost normal lives.

From January to July this year, there were 460 reported deaths of Filipinos with HIV, up 66 percent from the 276 listed in the same seven months in 2018.

It would seem that new HIV cases are not being spotted and treated fast enough and early enough. This explains the increasing loss of lives and the large number with advanced infection.

Coupled with strong preventive education, government has to find ways to encourage more Filipinos who suspect that they may have acquired HIV to seek prompt testing and treatment.

The figures in the seven months to July brought to 3,514 the cumulative deaths–3,202 males and 312 females–reported since government began passive surveillance in 1984.

Of those lost, 50 percent were 25 to 34 years old at the time of death; 28 percent were 35 to 49 years old; 15 percent were 15 to 24 years old; six percent were 50 years and older; and one percent, under 15 years old.

The national Aids registry, as of July 2019, listed an aggregate of 69,512 confirmed HIV cases and 12 percent, or 8,410 of them, have “advanced infection,” or clinical stage 3 or 4.

HIV destroys the body’s immune system and causes Aids, or the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome.

The condition still does not have any known cure, but timely diagnosis and therapy with daily antiretroviral drugs can keep HIV under control and enable individuals to live healthfully and productively.

The predominant mode of HIV transmission in the country is sexual contact–with 85 percent of all cases from male-to-male sex and 11 percent from male-to-female sex.

The other modes include infected needle-sharing among those who inject illegal drugs, mother-to-child conveyance and contaminated blood product transfers.

The Department of Health has designated 104 HIV treatment hubs and primary care facilities across the country that provide both in-patient and outpatient services, and another 56 centers that provide outpatient services only.