Philippines HIV infections 'doubling every year' – UN

Published: August 26, 2011

BANGKOK (AlertNet) – New HIV infections in the Philippines are doubling every year due to inadequate prevention efforts and poor knowledge of risky behaviour among vulnerable groups, a top U.N. official said in an interview.

This year, six new infections a day are occurring, compared with two a couple of years ago, Teresita Marie Bagasao, Philippines country director for UNAIDS, the U.N. agency for HIV/AIDS, told AlertNet.

HIV prevalence among the general population remains low at less than one percent. But after more than two decades of a low-level epidemic, “new cases are doubling every year and prevalence among key populations most at risk in certain cities has gone beyond 1 percent,” Bagasao said.

In Cebu, for example, prevalence among injecting drug-users – one of the three highest-risk groups, alongside people who sell sex and men who have sex with men – soared from 0.6 percent in 2009 to 53 percent in 2011, according to UNAIDS.

The rate of infection among men who have sex with men in Manila and Cebu is now estimated at 5 percent.

Jonas Bagas, a member of the Philippines National AIDS Council, said the Department of Health recorded more new cases of HIV infection in 2010 than the cumulative number of fresh cases reported from 2001 to 2005, according to Filipino news outlet Newsbreak.

Thirty years into the AIDS epidemic, Asia Pacific is at a crossroads, said a report  launched on Friday in Busan, South Korea, at the 10 th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific.

“While the region has seen impressive gains – including a 20 percent drop in new HIV infections since 2001 and a three-fold increase in access to antiretroviral therapy since 2006 – progress is threatened by an inadequate focus on key populations at higher risk of HIV infection and insufficient funding from both domestic and international sources,” it said.

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