Worst HIV epidemic feared as 8 cities breach tipping point

MANILA, Nov. 28 (Mabuhay) — Eight cities with the highest concentration of new human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cases in the Philippines are likely to develop the worst epidemic of the dreaded disease in the coming years after exceeding the five percent prevalence level this year.

With this development, the Department of Health (DOH) is now bracing itself for the surge of HIV incidents in the urban areas.

“Five percent is the tipping point. This means these cities have already reached the critical mass (of HIV patients), which could fuel an epidemic,” National HIV/AIDS and STI Surveillance and Strategic Information Unit (NHSSS) manager Genesis Samonte explained during her presentation at the HIV Partners’ Forum in Manila.

Samonte’s presentation was based from the results of DOH’s recently published Integrated HIV Behavioral and Serologic Surveillance (IHBSS).

Based on the IHBSS, Cebu recorded the highest HIV prevalence with 14 percent. It was followed by Cagayan de Oro with 9.3 percent, Puerto Princesa with 7.7 percent, Quezon City with 7.4 percent, and Mandaue City with 6.5 percent.

Cities still in the 5 percent mark include Parañaque with 5.9 percent, Davao with 5.5 percent, and Makati with 5.2 percent.

“These are the highest prevalence cities among the 36 cities that participated in the 2015 IHBSS,” the report stated.

DOH disclosed these areas are now being closely monitored and are included in the list of priority areas for its HIV control and prevention programs.

As of October, DOH recorded 29,079 newly diagnosed HIV cases nationwide. Ninety-two percent or 26,606 of these HIV patients are asymptomatic or have not yet shown any symptoms from the infection.

It had earlier announced it has requested a P600-million budget from Congress for next year to intensify its information dissemination campaign against HIV as well as expand its testing, counseling, and treatment services for HIV patients.

Samonte, however, admitted it may take some time before the government and its partner private organizations could reverse the trend in the HIV hotspots.(MNS)

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