By Lourdes Torno, S&T Media Service
“Low and slow” is how Dr. Edsel Maurice Salvaña of the UP Manila National Institutes of Health describes the HIV status in the Philippines during the recent Science Information Forum of Epidemiology of Population at Risk of HIV. Dr. Salvaña said that such a picture is due to several factors, such as “relative sexual conservatism” and “ that 92.5 percent of the Filipino males are circumcised.”
The “low and slow” description may be comforting but Salvana revealed a disturbing figure of HIV incidence in the country in the last 10 years as stated in the UNAIDS 2010 report. It disclosed that new cases are up by more than 800 percent in the Philippines, where more than half of the total cases were diagnosed in the last four years.
“(A person) would not have died of HIV had the (other) person who infected (this person) was treated early,” Dr. Salvaña emphasized. According to him, “An early treatment with antiretrovirals has been shown to restore life expectancy and a decrease in relative risk of transmission by 96 percent.” He admitted that HIV has no cure yet but it is no longer fatal because it can already be managed especially if treated at an early stage.
He encouraged everyone to undergo HIV test before it is too late. In the Philippine General Hospital, HIV test costs P285.
He called on the government and the media to help increase people’s awareness on how to prevent exposure to the virus and how to avail of HIV tests for possible early treatment, if found positive to the virus.
Engr Ma. Lourdes Orijola, assistant secretary of the Department of Science and Technology, called on the media to advocate to companies such as call centers to include in their corporate social responsibility the fight for HIV.
The forum was organized by DOST-National Academy of Science and Technology.