DOH chief on rising HIV cases: I am alarmed

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 8) — Health Secretary Ted Herbosa has sounded the alarm on the continuous uptick of cases of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the country, as the average number of new cases has started to double this year compared with last year's.

“Yes, I am alarmed," Herbosa told reporters on Friday. "Last year, the new cases per day ay [were] 22 on the average per day. This year, we're logging 50 new cases a day."

“And what is more alarming is ang babata, 15, below 18 ‘yung mga new cases, getting as young as 15 na positive,” he added.

[Translation: And what is more alarming is they’re getting younger. There were below 18 years old in the new cases, getting as young as 15 years old that tested positive.]

Herbosa said this prompted the Department of Health (DOH) to focus education efforts on HIV on students and teens to make them aware of the risks of contracting the virus.

He added that the issue has become an “adolescent health problemz" and that the agency is “trying to stave off the increase in new cases.”

He also said the department has already identified the target areas and noted that some urban centers have a higher incidence of HIV cases than others.

RELATED: Progress outlook: Status of HIV eradication in PH

In July, the DOH said there were 1,256 reported cases in May, with 323 classified as advanced HIV disease. Of the cases in May, 396 or 32% were 15–24 years old.

This brings the total number of infections in the country to 116,504 since January 1984, it said.

The regions with the highest number of new cases are the National Capital Region, Calabarzon, and Central Luzon, it added.

Herbosa also said the government needs to improve its distribution of HIV medication, explaining stocks are only in main hubs, but admitted that the country must increase its procurement of antiretroviral drugs.

In his second State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. urged a whole-of-society approach to “suppress the alarming rise of tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).”

“To stem the tide, the strategic plan is to ensure early diagnosis and treatment, and ample testing sites and medications," Marcos said. "Our healthcare system is undergoing structural changes.”