DOH and WHO conduct free HIV screening in the workplace
The Department of Health (DOH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) held a one-day free confidential and anonymous HIV screening in the workplace on Friday, 11 May 2018, at several sites within the DOH compound.
This activity was part of the observance of International AIDS Candlelight Memorial Day on 18 May 2018.
Over 400 DOH and WHO staff availed of the free HIV screening in eight (8) different stations within the DOH compound. These stations were located in: Disease Prevention and Control Bureau (2 stations), World Health Organization (2 stations), Epidemiology Bureau, Philippine National AIDS Council Secretariat, Health Promotion and Communication Service and Media Relations Unit Office.
The screening, which took about 15 minutes per person, was conducted by trained members from the community-based organization Project Red Ribbon. Manila Social Hygiene Clinic and San Lazaro Hospital were also present to provide further testing and counselling to those who will test reactive in the screening.
"As health workers, we should lead and promote HIV testing as part of the national strategy to fight and prevent HIV/AIDS. It is important to know one’s HIV status to enable people living with HIV (PLHIV) to access treatment, which is now given for free by the DOH," Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said.
He added that this activity inside the Department has provided convenience and privacy to those who wanted to avail of the services.
"We recommend, together with other Philippine National AIDS Council member agencies, that other government agencies and private organizations do the same for their staff on a regular basis," Secretary Duque added.
With a 140% increase in estimated annual new HIV infections from 2010 to 2016, UNAIDS said that the "the Philippines has become the country with the fastest growing HIV epidemic in Asia and the Pacific, and has become one of eight countries that account for more than 85% of new infections in the region."
From January 1984 to March 2018, the number of individuals diagnosed with HIV is 53,192. Among those diagnosed from January 2001 to December 2005, the predominant age group was 35-49 years old. However, starting from January 2006 to March 2018, the trend shifted to the 25-34 age group. The proportion of HIV positive cases in the 15-24 age group increased from 25% in 2006-2010 to 29% in 2011-2018.
In March 2018, there were 912 new HIV cases reported to the HIV/AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP). Ninety-four percent (858) of the newly diagnosed cases were male. More than half (52%, 471) were 25-34 years old while 31% (283) were 15-24 years old at the time of testing. Sexual contact remains the most predominant mode of transmission (99%, 899). Among this, 86% (774) were among males who have sex with males (MSM). Other modes of transmission were needle sharing among injecting drug users (1%, 11.)
"Given the current HIV situation in the Philippines, we have to step up our efforts to reduce the number of new HIV cases in the country," WHO Representative to the Philippines Dr Gundo Weiler said. "We hope that people take this opportunity not only to remember the lives lost to HIV but to also work towards the elimination of HIV stigma in the Philippines. It is time to talk to your loved ones about HIV screening because treatment is readily available."
"HIV is no longer a death sentence these days. We should end the stigma and fear attached to disease. HIV/AIDS can be prevented with correct information and deaths can be averted with treatment," Secretary Duque stated
Currently, DOH has certified 85 HIV treatment hubs apart from social hygiene clinics located in strategic places across the country where PLHIVs can avail of services such as screening and basic laboratory testing, treatment and management of HIV-related illnesses and counseling.
For more information, please contact:
Ms Faizza Tanggol
Communications Officer, World Health Organization Philippines