FAST AND FURIOUS HIV/AIDS

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During the WHO Regional Committee Meeting for the Western Pacific held in Manila in October, Regional Director Shin Young-soo warned against complacency and urged Member States to continue scaling up antiretroviral therapy as treatment against HIV and strengthen surveillance for sexually transmitted infections. He said with the introduction of antiretroviral therapy, HIV has become a chronic disease condition and requires a change of approach from an infectious disease to a chronic disease condition. He added that HIV must be considered in ongoing planning for health financing in the short- and long-term as part of universal health coverage schemes.

In June, WHO released its consolidated guidelines on the use of antiretroviral drugs for treating and preventing HIV infection, which encourages all countries to initiate treatment in adults living with HIV when their CD4 cell count falls to 500 cells/mm³ or less while their immune systems are still strong. The new recommendations also include providing antiretroviral therapy, irrespective of their CD4 count, to all children with HIV under five years of age, all pregnant and breastfeeding women with HIV and all HIV-positive partners where one partner in the relationship is uninfected. WHO continues to recommend that all people with HIV with active tuberculosis or with hepatitis B disease receive antiretroviral therapy. WHO based its recommendations on evidence that treating people with HIV earlier, with safe, affordable, and easier-to-manage medicines, can both keep them healthy and lower the amount of virus in the blood, which reduces the risk of infecting someone else.

Another issue in the Region is the rising HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men (MSM). In the Philippines, July saw an unprecedented number of 449 new cases in which 96 per cent were male. It indicated a 62 per cent rise compared to July 2012. Of the new case, 412 reported they had been infected through sexual contact while needle-sharing among drug users accounted for 36 infections. MSM accounted for the majority of the sexual transmissions – 84 per cent. And of the infected, 57 per cent were aged between 20 and 29.

With the aim to increase awareness on HIV/AIDS as well as gender sensitivity and expression, TV5 premiered on October 17 a drama series entitled, “POSI+IVE,” with the tagline, “Let's save lives... Media can stop AIDS.” This in partnership and support of the AIDS Society of the Philippines.

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