With the Philippines still registering 30 new HIV cases every day, there were 645 confirmed HIV-positive individuals reported to the HIV/AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP) in May 2021, encompassing the latest data provided by the Department of Health (DOH).
Continuing the ongoing trend of HIV affecting younger people, 50% (324) of the new cases were 25-34 years old at the time of diagnosis; 31% (197) were 15-24 years old; and <1% (1) were less than 15 years old. Seventeen percent (17%, 108) were 35-49 years old, and 2% (15) were 50 years and older. The median age was 28 years old (age range: 2-67 years old).
Among the newly-infected, 94% (607) were male.
Sixteen percent (16%) of the new cases (or 104) already had clinical manifestations of advanced HIV infection at the time of testing, meaning they have higher risk to get opportunistic infections (OIs) that could even lead to death. A study released in July also noted the growing evidence suggesting that people with advanced HIV may not achieve viral clearance of SARS-CoV-2 infection, and can even lead to the creation of dangerous viral mutations.
The regions with the most number of newly reported cases were National Capital Region (NCR), Central Luzon (3), CaLaBaRZon (4A), Central Visayas (7), and Western Visayas (6). These top 5 regions comprised 74% of the total number of cases for this period.
SEX STILL MAIN MODE OF TRANSMISSION
Considering the continuing lack of comprehensive sex education in the country, it is worth noting that 96% (620) of the (645) total reported cases in May 2021 were infected through sexual contact.
In fact, from January to May 2021, with a total of 4,548 reported cases, 97% (4,404) were infected through sexual contact.
Also, 13% (87) of the newly-reported cases engaged in transactional sex. Ninety-eight percent (85) were male and age ranged from 17-60 years old (median: 30 years old). Forty-nine percent (43) of the cases reported paying for sex only, 31% (27) reported accepting payment for sex only and 20% (17) engaged in both.
Other reported modes of transmission (MOT) for May 2021 included: eight (1%) cases who acquired HIV through sharing of infected needles; and one (<1%) child was infected through vertical transmission (nee mother-to-child transmission). There were 16 (3%) cases that had no data on MOT.
There were 34 newly-reported adolescents (10-19 years old) in May 2021. Of these, 26% (9) were 15-17 years old and 74% (25) were 18-19 years old.
Ninety-four percent (32) of adolescents were infected through sexual contact (six male-female sex, 20 male-male sex, six sex with both males and females); and one (3%) adolescent acquired HIV through sharing of infected needles. One had no data on MOT.
In May 2021, 197 (31%) cases were among youth 15-24 years old, and 93% (184) were male. Ninety-seven percent (192) were infected through sexual contact, and one (1%) case acquired HIV through sharing of infected needles. Four (2%) cases had no data on the MOT.
Other HIV infections for the period included:
- 12 transgender women
- Three (3) pregnant women at the time of diagnosis; two (2) from NCR and one case from CaLaBaRZon, with the ages of diagnosis at 23, 34, and 39 years old
- 31 Filipinos who worked overseas within the past five years, whether on land or at sea; they comprised 5% of the total (645) diagnosed cases for this period, with 97% (30) of the OFWs male
In May 2021, there were 15 reported deaths due to any cause among people with HIV (PLHIV). Ninety-three percent (14) were males.
Further, six (40%) cases were 15-24 years old at the time of death, five (33%) were 25-34 years old, and four (27%) were 35-49 years old.
The top regions with most number of reported deaths were Region 4B with four (27%) cases, Region 10 with three (20%) cases, NCR with two (13%) case, and Regions 1, 11, 3, 6, 7, and BARMM with one (7%) case each.
It is worth noting that with deaths among PLHIV, the actual numbers may not be seen due to non- and/or under-reporting.
INTRO TO TREATMENT
For the same period at least, 628 Filipino PLHIV were initiated on antiretroviral treatment (ART), and were on the first line regimen. The median CD4 of these patients upon enrollment was at 173 cells/mm3; meaning, many were already had clinical manifestations of advanced HIV infection at the time of starting their HIV medication/s.