The other pandemic: HIV.
In the latest report from the HIV/AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP), the Department of Health (DOH) noted that on average, 34 people in the Philippines are now getting infected with HIV every day. This is higher than the 33 daily cases recorded pre-pandemic, for a while considered already high. In 2011, only six Filipinos were getting infected daily; this rose to 25 daily cases in 2016; and then lowered to 22 daily cases in 2020.
HARP’s most recent data, the collated diagnosed cases in November 2021, showed that there were 1,268 confirmed HIV cases for the period, with 18% (223) of them already with clinical manifestations of advanced HIV infection at the time of testing (i.e. meaning, they have been tested late).
HIV continues to predominantly affect male Filipinos, composing 96% (1,211) of November’s reported cases.
LGBTQIA-insensitive, the DOH still counts transgender women as “males”, citing in the HARP report that of the total male cases, 2% (29) identified themselves as female (transgender women). Twenty-six percent (310) reported their gender-identity as “others” at the time of testing.
Further, 52% (653) of the cases were 25-34 years old at the time of diagnosis, 28% (359) were 15-24 years old, 18% (225) were 35-49 years old, 2% (31) were 50 years and older, and <1% (1) was less than 15 years old. The median age was 28 years old (age range: 3-70 years old).
That the youth remains vulnerable to HIV was again stressed by November’s data, with 28% (359) of the reported cases among youth 15-24 years old, and 94% (339) of them male. Fourteen percent (52) among youth were reported to have advance infection of HIV.
Ninety-nine percent reported cases (356) were infected through sexual contact (35 male-female sex, 241 male-male sex, 80 sex with both males and females).
In November 2021, 12% (148) of the newly reported cases engaged in transactional sex. Ninety-nine percent (147) were male and the age of diagnosis ranged from 16 to 57 years old (median age: 28 years old). Fifty percent (74) of the male cases reported paying for sex, 34% (50) reported accepting payment for sex, and 16% (23) engaged in both. One female (23 years old) was reported to have paid in exchange for sex.
Eighty-seven Filipinos who worked overseas within the past five years, whether on land or at sea, were reported with HIV in November 2021. They comprised 7% of the total (1,268) diagnosed cases for this period. Among the newly diagnosed OFWs, 97% (84) were male. Ninety-eight percent (85) of all cases were infected through sexual contact (10 male-to-female sex, 38 male-to-male sex, 37 sex with both males and females). The age of diagnosis ranged from 20 to 70 years old (median age: 33 years old).
Still in November 2021, there were 10 HIV-positive women reported pregnant at the time of diagnosis. Four cases from the NCR; three cases from Region 4A; two cases from Region 7; and one case from Region 12. The age of diagnosis ranged from 16 to 32 years old (median age: 23 years old).
Nine hundred and seventeen people with HIV were initiated on antiretroviral treatment in November, so that to date, a total of 55,498 people living with HIV (PLHIV) are on ART.
STILL A DEATH SENTENCE?
But belying the claim that HIV is no longer a death sentence, in November 2021, there were 134 reported deaths due to any cause among people with HIV. Ninety-five percent (127) of them were males. Moreover, 31 (23%) were 15-24 years old, 73 (55%) were 25-34 years old, 24 (18%) were 35-49 years old, and 6 (4%) were 50 years and older.
The top three regions with the most number of reported deaths were the NCR with 61(46%) cases, CaLaBaRZon [4A] with 26 (19%) cases and Central Luzon  with 13 (10%) cases. The rest of the country reported 34 (25%) cases.