Doctors laud Pia’s support to HIV cause

January 29, 2016 7:50 am 

By Leilani S. Junio

MANILA, Jan. 28 (PNA)–Medical doctors belonging to the Philippine College of Physicians Foundation laud reigning Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach for taking up the HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) prevention advocacy as her mission since it will greatly help generate awareness on the problem.

Dr. Anthony Leachon, president of the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) Foundation, said Pia could be most effective in the advocacy if she would partner with professional societies like the PCP, and HIV advocacy groups to leverage her world-wide popularity to raise awareness, neutralize stigma, and save lives.

Leachon said that Pia could help a lot in the strategies to defeat the epidemic by helping to create more awareness by educating the public through participation in awareness campaigns wherein she would be encouraging for early testing, and early treatment.

“Media and celebrity endorsements are powerful tools for spreading the message to prevent infection and get tested early especially among those that are at risk,” Leachon said.

He also said that awareness of the problem was important, and getting tested for HIV should be a routine part of medical care.

There was a need to overcome the stigma by strong education and support from government, he said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Edsel Maurice T. Salvana, Director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, National Institutes of Health in the University of the Philippines Manila, recalled that the first cases of HIV in the Philippines were diagnosed in 1984.

Dr. Salvana said that between 1984 and 2005, HIV case rates locally were some of the lowest in the world, with about one case diagnosed every two days.

“Since 2006, the number of newly-diagnosed HIV-positive Filipinos has skyrocketed. From one case a day in 2006, we now have an average of one new case an hour,” Salvana said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that the Philippines has the fastest growing AIDS epidemic in the world.

Salvana, who is the leading expert on HIV in the Philippines and a TOYM awardee said, the epidemic was currently concentrated in men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) but was poised to spill over into the general population as the proportion of HIV-positive MSMs had gone above 5 percent nationwide.

“This phenomenon is not confined to Metro Manila. In fact the highest prevalence of HIV in MSM in the Philippines is Cebu, at 14 percent, followed by Cagayan de Oro at 9.3 percent. Puerto Princesa is at 7.7 percent and Quezon City is at 7.4 percent. We are currently seeing more and more HIV-positive women, including pregnant women,” he added.

Salvana observed that the age of diagnosis is likewise becoming younger, with the current mean age at 27 years old, and over 30 percent of new diagnoses are in the 15-24 year-old age group.

At the current levels of increase, the DOH anticipates that the number of HIV positive Filipinos will reach 133,000 by 2022 from the current 29,706.

The DOH had earlier said that they were expecting the increase as their campaigns and calls became more effective in removing stigma among those who had HIV or at risk.

At present HIV is no longer a death sentence because DOH made antiretrovirals (ARV) available for free from its HIV treatment hubs all over the Philippines.

With their campaigns for early diagnosis, they help restoring the life expectancy of those with HIV while at the same time encouraging those with HIV to also do their share in protecting others in the process.

HIV progresses to AIDS in about eight to ten years.

The only way to diagnose someone infected with HIV who is not yet in full-blown AIDS is through a blood test.

“A Filipino who is diagnosed with full-blown AIDS is six times more likely to die than someone who is diagnosed with HIV early and started on ARVs. On top of this, ARVs decrease the risk of transmitting HIV to a sexual partner by more than 96 percent. All these information can now reach the necessary audience with the help of Pia and other celebrities who are willing to take up the same advocacy,” Salvana said.(PNA)



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