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  • HIV Infections in the Philippines Continue to Rise – Is Truvada the Key to End the Epidemic?

    Why HIV infections in the Philippines are increasing? How many cases are already reported? What is Truvada and why it is being hailed as the key to ending AIDS?

    December 2, 2015 | Related: , , ,

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    World Aids Day – What’s Fueling the Increase in HIV Infections in the Asia Pacific?

    The Philippines may have a low base rate of HIV infections. But the number of people infected with the virus is rising. In fact, the country is considered to have one of the fastest growing HIV infections in the world.

    But the details about HIV infections are underreported because of the sexuality taboos in the country, which is a largely Catholic nation. Some potential HIV carriers are afraid of setting foot in an STD clinic because they are afraid that someone would see them and the report about their condition will spread quickly.

    First HIV-Infected Filipino

    Ma. Dolzura Cortez was the first Filipino HIV-infected victim who came out in the public and told the media about how she got infected with the virus. She died in 1992.

    The second was Sarah Jane Salazar. She acquired the virus from a foreign customer while she was working as a club entertainer. She later died in 2000. Her lover was also tested HIV-positive while her two children were HIV-negative.

    The most common cause of HIV infections in the Philippines is unprotected sex between males. In February 2015, the government recorded 646 new cases, averaging 20 cases each day. Out of the 646 cases, 91 percent of them were caused by unprotected sexual contact. 1

    Then, 58 cases of the total HIV infections recorded this year were caused by sharing of needles among drug users. And two cases were reported to be from a mother to child transmission.

    The highest number of cases is in the NCR and second is in Central Visayas.

    Ninety-three percent of these cases are asymptomatic or that the patient is infected but does not show symptoms.

    Prevent HIV infection with Truvada

    Truvada is said to be the answer to preventing HIV infection. It is considered as nearly as effective as wearing condoms. Some doctors hailed it as a key to ending the AIDS epidemic.

    Approved by the FDA in 2004, Truvada is used to treat HIV infections. Three years ago, it was approved to be the only drug for PrEP or pre-exposure prophylaxis. What it does is that it inhibits replication of the virus that causes the infection. 2

    However, not every person in the medical community is applauding Truvada as a major drug in fighting against HIV and AIDS. No one has publicly advocating it to be used without condoms.

    For some, condoms are still the most effective way to prevent HIV infection. However, Truvada may be the better choice for those who don’t want to wear condoms.

    No matter how effective this pill is, taking it is a challenge. If you don’t have insurance, the pill can cost around $1,500 a month (about PHP65,000+). But there are several insurance plans that can cover it.

    But Truvada has side effects. Users of this pill may experience fatigue, mild itching, gastrointestinal issues and skin rash. Some patients reported experiencing liver problems and kidney issues.

    That said, patients taking this pill should undergo blood testing to ensure that their kidneys and liver are still functioning well.

    Confidential HIV testing

    The Department of Health is setting up a confidential HIV testing in several hygiene clinics in high-risk areas, including the NCR, Cebu and Davao. For confidential inquiries, you may call its hotline numbers: 0915-1986-978, 0922-6350-270, and (02) 256-3472.

    References:

    1. Tan, Lara (May 14, 2015). DOH Records Highest Number of HIV Cases Since 1984. CNN Philippines. Retrieved from http://cnnphilippines.com/news/2015/05/11/DOH-HIV-cases-at-its-highest-yet.html
    2. Tinker, Ben (December 1, 2015). Can This Pill End the AIDS Epidemic? CNN. Retrieved from http://edition.cnn.com/2015/12/01/health/truvada-prep-hiv-prevention-debate/

    Photo credit: Bet

    About the author

    Erliza Lee Erliza Lee has a BS Biology degree. She likes writing topics related to health and travel.

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