Monday, April 16, 2012

The Steady Rise

Whenever I tell people about the current statistics of HIV prevalence in our country, they always ask me about one thing - why is it going up? Let me try and answer this, but first, the actual numbers.

Extracted from Philippine DOH website

274 - New registered HIV cases in the Philippines for the month of February of this year, highest number in the history of the country
72% - Increase compared to February of 2011
235 - Acquired through sexual contact
87% - of 235 are from males who have sex with males
27% - of the HIV cases of February 2012 are from the ages of 15 -24 years old
10 - People are getting infected everyday
8,850 - Total reported cases of HIV in the country as of current

So what does these tell us? First, that we are already at the benchmark of people being infected per day, 10. Compare this to last year's number which was only 6 per day. And just to surprise everyone further, more than a quarter of these cases are of people aged 15 - 24. Yes, they are getting younger. And the demographic shift doesn't end there. Back then it was mostly women who were registered to have the virus, now the male population hold the highest number of newly registered HIV cases and mostly through male to male sexual contact. It'll be safe to conclude that the most at risk of getting infected of HIV are the younger generation guys who practice same sex activities.

Now to the question at hand, why is there a rise in the number of cases? I've got two answers, a good and a bad one if you will. In a not-so-positive way of seeing things, I'll say that people are getting more promiscuous and they are getting younger. We can put the blame on a number of things such as media for sensationalizing sex, the church for demonizing sex, the economy, care bears, the man on the moon, what have you. But the truth of the matter is, it's already there. Sex does happen whether we try to deny it or sweep it under the carpet. The scary part is, people are so uneducated about sexually transmitted infection that they put themselves in such a risk and they don't even know it.

During the short time I've been a counselor and educator, I've always encountered the same misconceptions, myths and at times weird misconstrued beliefs about sex and the transmission of HIV. So to clear things out, no, the number is not rising because of the increased number of infected blood products being donated. We have a secure system in blood donation in place. If the donation questionnaires are answered honestly and protocols are followed to the letter, we're safe. No, it's not the fault of mosquitoes, razor blades or fomite shared from a person with or suspected to have HIV to one who is does not have HIV. And no, it's not because people are distributing condoms, that kids nowadays are actively engaging in sex more. That logic just doesn't follow.

Sex on the other hand, as mentioned above by the report, is the is the biggest contributor. As with every counseling I've had, encountering people coming in to know their status, all of them are sexually active and came in for that reason as well. All, not just those who get a reactive result, engage in unprotected penetrative sex.

But there's always a good side to things, and the reason for the increase of HIV cases being registered in our country is something I'd like to think is a product of the efforts of the people in this advocacy. With endless shoots, fund-raisers, TV guesting stints, mass yoga, and a concert, I think we've done a lot just to make the continuing rise of the HIV epidemic a public concern. It's a huge step but I don't think we'll be stopping there. It's not even half-way done. There are barriers that haven't been breached still.

Taking on the challenge of HIV to our country is not something we in the advocacy alone could take on. That's why we've always tried to involve as many people as we could, educating one mind at a time, influencing as many hearts as we could. If you want to help put a stop to this visit our website at or visit our other social networks to find out how you can help.

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