By Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star), Aug 25, 2017
That the Philippines has the highest HIV-AIDS infection rate in Asia-Pacific should jolt the health department from complacency. Present information drives and treatment plans may be inadequate. This is obvious when taken with the continually increasing teenage pregnancies as well. In contrast, in most of Asia-Pacific, HIV-AIDS and teen motherhood are declining.
HIV-AIDS infections rose 150 percent in 2010 to 2016, from 4,300 to 10,000 patients. That’s worse than in Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, and Australia. In other poorer or richer countries in the region, infections have dropped 13 percent, according to UNAIDS Data.
May 2017 registered the highest number of new HIV-AIDS cases in one month: 1,098. That’s a 48-percent jump from the 741 cases documented in the same month last year, the Dept. of Health reports.
In the first half of 2017 alone, 4,388 new patients were registered. That brings to 44,010 the number of HIV-AIDS documented since the DOH began tracking the deadly virus 33 years ago in 1984.
The Philippines presently is encountering 29 new cases per day, compared to one daily in 2008 and 26 last year.
Age breakdown of the new cases this year: 185 cases in the bracket 35-49 years old; 554 in the 25-34 years old; 325 in the 15-24; and three below 15 years old.
Mode of HIV-AIDS transmission: 1,068 by sexual contract; 27 from needle sharing by drug users; and three by mother to child.
Of the transmissions by sexual contact, 86 percent was male to male, the DOH notes.
National and field health officers must renew their information drive for safe sex, especially among homosexuals. Also, combat prostitution, male or female, and improve treatments. Clearly Filipinos are not being taught enough about disease avoidance. Prostitution thrives, even among minors, in cities. HIV-AIDS patients, while being treated free, are not induced to avoid spreading the infection.
Condom distribution is not enough. Harder work – values formation, economic uplift, law enforcement, socio-civic support – is needed. Full-court press by government must be done now, before the deadly virus spreads like the drug menace. The mainstream media would only be too willing to help. (Left to fester, drug use worsened from 1.8 million addicts in 2001 to four million by 2015.)
Educators and school officials foremost must get into the act. One in ten Filipinas aged 15 to 19 already is a mother or pregnant with the first child. Teen pregnancy in the Philippines has been on the rise since 2000, the UN Population Fund reports. School-age Filipinos are not being instructed enough in sex hygiene and abstinence. Parents need instructing as well on dealing with their growing sons and daughters. Bishops would do well to help through the parishes. Overseas working parents are absentees not by neglect but necessity.
There are worse statistics. Fifteen percent of adolescent Filipinas who had sex before age 15 were by force. As complication, many unwanted teen pregnancies lead to unsafe abortions. Social workers and police child-and-women specialists must be alert in spotting cases of child abuse, domestic violence, and teen despondency. Date rapes cannot go unpunished due to victims’ and parents’ reluctance to press charges. If they are afraid of social stigmatizing, then more so the culprits and, if minors, even their parents.
As well, inculturation makes Filipino lads believe that they should be sexually experienced at an early age. That tempts them into contracting sex workers, and risking sexually transmitted disease. False machismo can mess their lives forever.
HIV-AIDS and aborted teen pregnancies not only can be fatal or debilitating. There are severe economic costs too. Patients and pregnant lasses tend to drop out of school, work, and society. Untrained and unproductive, they burden their impoverished families and come to depend on state support.