Saturday, July 16, 2016

Philippines - AIDS Hour

Since Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome was first detected, the Philippines has largely seen one of the lowest HIV infection rates in the world. AIDS trackers placed the rate at an average of one percent of the population since the affliction was first reported in the Philippines in 1984.

Health experts, however, began detecting a rapid increase in the infection rate in 2009, bucking the downward trend in many countries that had grappled with serious AIDS problems. Last year, the World Health Organization declared that the Philippines had the world’s fastest HIV infection rate.

From 1984 to March this year, the Department of Health recorded a total of 32,647 HIV cases. Of the number, 82 percent or 26,632 were reported from January 2011.

To raise public awareness of AIDS and ways of preventing the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus, the Philippines is observing tonight the world’s first-ever “AIDS Hour.” From 6 to 7 p.m., people are encouraged to light a candle for those who have died of AIDS, including 1,501 Filipinos. Of that number, 415 were recorded from January to November 2015 alone. HIV awareness advocates say the actual toll is higher since many AIDS-related deaths are attributed instead to pneumonia or meningitis.

AIDS Hour is being launched in Liwasang Aurora at the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City as the nation joins the rest of the world in observing the 33rd International AIDS Candlelight Memorial. The venue of the special event will be changed every year, with the host asked to shine a light on a local landmark.

AIDS Hour, organized by the DOH together with the Project Red Ribbon Care Management Foundation Inc. and Pilipinas Shell Foundation, aims to inform the public about the health services available to those suffering from HIV / AIDS. It also aims to eliminate the social stigma attached to those suffering from the potentially deadly affliction.

The Philippines has adopted the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, among which is the eradication of illnesses including AIDS by 2030. If the goal is to be attained, the nation must move aggressively to reverse the surge in HIV infections.

Female sex workers used to be the group worst hit by AIDS. Today men having unprotected sex with other men account for over 70 percent of HIV infections, with most of them from the 25-34 age group. Other countries in the region have managed to reverse serious AIDS problems. The Philippines must move decisively before AIDS becomes a public health crisis.

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