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Story Publication logo November 11, 2015

HIV Epidemic in the Philippines

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The number of reported HIV cases in the Philippines has increased by more than 277 percent over the...

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INJECTION. A drug user injects a mixture of Nubain, a narcotic painkiller. Even with the strict regulations, Nubain is common amongst 'shooters' because they can purchase it in increments as cheap as P20 ($.50). Image by Veejay Villafranca. Philippines, 2015.

MANILA – In this week's episode of "Sex and Sensibilities," Rappler columnist and podcaster Ana P. Santos chats with Zimmbodilion "Peter" Mosende, Strategic Information Adviser at the UNAIDS Country Office about the concentrated HIV epidemic in the Philippines.

In just 5 years, the Philippines has reported over 20,000 new HIV infections.

That number is more than the total number of HIV cases reported in the Philippines from 1984 (when the first case of HIV was discovered in the country) to the early 2000s.

The World Health Organization (WHO) describes the Philippines as having the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world.

"The (rate of infection) last five years have eclipsed the first 25 years of the epidemic in the Philippines," said Mosende.

The Philippines remains a low incidence country—HIV among the general population is less than 1% – but health officials like Mosende say that the country has a "concentrated epidemic" that needs close monitoring and urgent intervention.

There is a high rate of HIV infection among certain groups like gay men and men who have sex with men, freelance sex workers, and in certain areas of Cebu, among people who inject drugs.

"In 2013, HIV prevalence among injecting drug users was more than 50%," said Mosende.

Prevention is crucial now for the Philippines for the simple reason that treatment is more expensive than prevention.

"It costs about P30,000 a year to maintain a person infected with HIV (medication and treatment), whereas prevention costs less than Php5,000," said Mosende.

Tune into the podcast to know how local government, NGOs and concerned groups are developing innovative prevention efforts to stop the spread of HIV and what you can do to help.

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