The other pandemic.
HIV is still a major issue in the Philippines, with 22 Filipinos getting infected with the virus every day, at least as of December 2020 as reported to the HIV/AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP) of the Department of Health (DOH).
The number is actually lower than 2019’s 35 new HIV cases per day. However, the new number may not represent the real HIV situation of the country since HIV-related services have been affected by Covid-19.
According to HARP, in December 2020, there were 1,076 confirmed HIV-positive individuals. Eighteen percent (198) had clinical manifestations of advanced HIV infection at the time of testing.
Ninety-five percent (1,017) of the reported cases were male, with a median age of 28 years old (age range: 2-74 years old). More than half of the cases (54%, 579) were 25-34 years old, and 25% (273) were 15-24 years old at the time of diagnosis.
More than a quarter (28%, 300) were from the National Capital Region (NCR). Region 7 (26%, 281), Region 4A (13%, 136), Region 3 (8%, 90), and Region 1 (6%, 68) comprised the top five regions with the most number of newly reported cases for this reporting period, together accounting for 81% of the total cases.
Sexual contact remained as the predominant mode of transmission (92%, 985). Among the newly reported cases acquired HIV through sexual contact, 62% (613) were through male to male sex, 24% (236) through males who have sex with both males and females, and 14% (136) through male to female sex. Further, 47 (4%) were infected through sharing of needles and three cases (<1%) were infected through mother-to-child transmission. Forty-one cases (4%) had no data on mode of transmission.
YOUTH IN FOCUS
273 (25%) cases were among youth 15-24 years old, and 94% were male. Ninety-seven percent (264) were infected through sexual contact (29 male-female sex, 182 male-male sex, 53 sex with both males and females), and four (1%) were infected through sharing of needles. Five (2%) cases had no data on the MOT.
There were 37 newly-reported adolescents with HIV. Of these, 3% (1) were 10-14 years old, 21% (8) were 15-17 years old, and 76% (28) were 18-19 years old. All adolescents were infected through sexual contact (7 male-female sex, 23 male-male sex, 7 sex with both males and females).
Further, five children were diagnosed with HIV in this reporting period. Three were infected through vertical (nee mother-to-child) transmission, while two had no data on MOT.
PREGNANT WOMEN WITH HIV
In December 2020, 13 cases were reported pregnant at the time of diagnosis. Eight cases were from Region 7, four cases from NCR, and one case from Region 3.
Reporting of pregnancy status at the time of diagnosis was included in the HARP only starting 2011.
From January to December 2020, there were 105 HIV positive women reported pregnant at the time of diagnosis. Of these, 35% (37) were from NCR, 19% (20) were from Region 4A, 16% (17) were from Region 3 and 30% (31) were from the rest of the country. The age of diagnosis ranged from 15 to 45 years old (median age: 25).
In December 2020, 11% (118) of the newly-diagnosed engaged in transactional sex. All were male and aged from 15 to 56 years old (median: 30 years old). Fifty- eight percent (68) of the males reported paying for sex only, 27% (32) reported accepting payment for sex only, and 15% (18) engaged in both.
People who engage in transactional sex are those who reported that they either pay for sex, regularly accept payment for sex, or do both. Reporting of transactional sex was included in the HARP only starting December 2012.
ACCESS TO TREATMENT
In December 2020, there were 639 people with HIV who were initiated on ART. The median CD4 count of these patients upon enrollment was 195 cells/mm .
By end-2020, a total of 47,977 PLHIV were on ART. Most (96%) were males. The age of reported cases ranged from 1 to 82 years (median: 32 years old). Ninety-five percent were on first line regimen, 4% were on second line, and 1% were on other line of regimen.
DEATHS AMONG PEOPLE WITH HIV
Highlighting that HIV still kills in the Philippines, in December 2020, there were 51 reported deaths due to any cause among people with HIV. Ninety-eight percent (50) were males. Five (10%) cases were 15-24 years old, 25 (49%) were 25-34 years old, 19 (37%) were 35-49 years old and 2 (4%) were 50 years and older.
Most (92%, 47) of those who died were reported to have acquired HIV through sexual contact (7 through sex with male and female, 24 through male-male sex, and 16 through sex with both males and females), and 8% (4) through sharing of infected needles.