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31% of new HIV cases from 15-24 age bracket; 99% were infected through sex

In March 2019, there were 1,172 newly diagnosed HIV-positive Filipinos; 94% of them male. Sexual contact remained as the predominant mode of transmission (98%).

Photo by ian dooley from Unsplash.com

That those getting infected with HIV in the Philippines are getting younger was again emphasized by the HIV/AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP) from the Department of Health’s Epidemiology Bureau, which reported that for March 2019, latest data available showed that 31% (359) were from the 15-24 age bracket at the time of testing. In total, there were 1,172 newly confirmed HIV positive individuals in March.

Of the 359 cases, 95% were male. Almost all (99%, 358) were infected through sexual contact (29 male-female sex, 236 male-male sex, 93 sex with both males and females). One (1%) had no data on mode of transmission.

Also for March, there were 49 newly diagnosed adolescents 10-19 years old at the time of diagnosis. Further, 11 cases were 15-17 years old and 38 cases were 18-19 years old. All were similarly infected through sexual contact (5 male-female sex, 37 male-male sex, and 7 had sex with both males and females).

There were four diagnosed cases of less-than-10-years-old and all were infected through vertical (formerly mother-to-child) transmission.

MALE FILIPINOS IN FOCUS

As usual, 94% (1,106) of the 1,172 newly diagnosed were male. The median age was 27 years old (age range: 3-71 years old). Half of the cases (50%, 591) were 25-34 years old.

Almost a third (30%, 348) were from the National Capital Region (NCR). Other regions that registered the most number of new HIV infections were: Region 4A (15%, 171), Region 3 (12%, 140), Region 11 (12%, 140), and Region 6 (7%, 79). These regions account for 76% of the total.

Sexual contact remained as the predominant mode of transmission (98%, 1,148). Among the newly diagnosed, 61% (712) reported transmission through male to male sex, 24% (282) through sex with both males and females, and 13% (154) were through male to female sex. Other modes of transmission were sharing of infected needles (1%, 11) and vertical (nee
mother-to-child) transmission (<1%, 4).

SPECIAL POPULATIONS

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Among the newly diagnosed females this month, seven were pregnant at the time of diagnosis. Three cases were from NCR and Region 4A and one case was from Region 6.

Ninety-one Filipinos who worked overseas within the past five years, whether on land or at sea, were diagnosed in March 2019. They comprised 8% of the total newly-diagnosed cases for the month. Among them, 90% (82) were male. All were infected through sexual contact (22 male-female sex, 44 male-male sex, and 25 sex with both males and females). The ages of male OFWs ranged from 19 to 51 years (median: 33 years).

Almost half (49%) of the males belonged to the 25-34 year age group. Among the nine female OFWs diagnosed in March 2019, six cases were from age groups 25-34 years old, one case was 35-49 years old and two cases were older than 50 years. The age range among diagnosed female OFWs were 26 to 52 years (median: 32 years).

Meanwhile, 14% (160) of the newly diagnosed engaged in transactional sex. Ninety-eight percent (156) were male and aged from 17 to 62 years old (median: 30 years). Forty-nine percent (77) of the males reported paying for sex only, 36% (56) reported accepting payment for sex only and 15% (23) engaged in both. Also, among the four female cases who engaged in transactional sex, 75% (3) were reported to have accepted payment for sex and one had engaged in both.

LIVING BEYOND DIAGNOSIS

In March, there were 11 reported deaths due to any cause among people with HIV, and all were males. Five cases (45%) were 25-34 years old at the time of death and six cases (55%) were 35-49 years. Majority of the cases were reported to have acquired the infection through sexual contact.

It is worth stressing that figures on death never show the complete picture because of under-reporting.

But in March, 923 PLHIVs were initiated on antiretroviral therapy (ART). The median CD4 of these patients upon enrollment was 175 cells/mm3. A total of 36,320 people living with HIV (PLHIV) were presently on ART as of March. Most of whom were males (97%). The age of reported cases ranged from 10 months to 80 years (median: 31 years old). Ninety-five percent were on first line regimen, 4% were on second line, and 1% were on other line of regimen.

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