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Curiosity and the rise of HIV

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People tend to take risks and explore their sexuality at an early age, unaware of the consequences of their actions. Curiosity is the quality adolescents must watch out for, as it can be one of the factors that make them vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases.

Unfortunately, the number of cases of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection in the Philippines continues to rise. From 2010 to 2015, it increased by almost 203 percent, the fastest HIV epidemic on record.

Even as the world continues to advance and get more connected, HIV is becoming much more prevalent since it was first identified in 1984.

By the end of 2019, an estimated 90,400 people in the Philippines, most of them the youth, would have been infected by the virus.

Of 66,303 HIV cases in the Philippines from January 1984 to April 2019, some 18,831 who diagnosed were within the ages of 15 to 24.

According to Dr. Emma Llanto, president of the Philippine Society of Adolescent Medicine Specialists, one of the emerging factors causing this is social media and dating applications.

“(Among the youth), there are a lot of changes going on — physical, emotional, social. We want to seek our own identities, explore sexually and find our own places in the world,” Dr. Llanto said.

Geo-social applications like Grindr and Tinder make it easier for people to get in touch and “hook” up, whether it is looking for something casual or intimate.

SEN. Risa Hontiveros at the HIV Summit 2019.

However, misuse of these apps may take their adolescence and even their lives sooner than they thought. “Just imagine a classroom of young people, who might die at the end of the month. These are our future doctors, scholars, workers and people who can contribute to our country, and now they’re gone,” Dr. Llanto explained.

Lack of education is also a leading cause of the spread of HIV. Sex education, in general, has yet to reach all academic institutions.

According to data presented by Dr. Noel Palaypayon last 2 August at the 2019 HIV Summit, one out of three individuals in the Philippines remains undiagnosed.

Recognizing that more action is needed to stem the rise of the infection, the government and the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (PSMID) applies the HIV Care Cascade in the Philippines.

The HIV Care Cascade is an outline of steps that People Living with HIV (PLHIV) go through from initial diagnosis to achieve the complete suppression of the virus in the body.

It is composed of five stages: HIV testing and diagnosis; linkage and enrollment in care; Antiretroviral treatment (ART); retention; and viral suppression that can prevent the onset of a more malignant infection. But for it to be more successful, attention to each step in the treatment cascade and better health services are needed.

As of April 2019, based on the National HIV Care Cascade, there are 62, 968 diagnosed in PLHIV while 37, 091 are enrolled in ART in the Philippines.

“We must remember that HIV care is as important as getting them treated. The sooner we can pair them with HIV care, the better,” Dr. Palaypayon said. “Because care can save lives.”
As the numbers of PLHIV is growing, it is important for the government to step up its efforts to promote better care.

In line with this growing concern, stricter laws are implemented for consent and testing like the AO 11166 HIV/AIDS Policy Act (12/2018).

Comprehensive Sex Education is provided as well, for more information, skills and values about the virus. There will be access to SRH services that could help people to live in an informed and better world.

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