Addressing HIV and AIDS in the Philippines
A Philippines HIV Epidemic is Getting Needed Attention
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) & Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
4 December, 2017 – Manila, Republic of the Philippines – It’s important to say “use a condom” when engaging in sexual liaison but for Filipinos, sexually transmitted diseases like HIV are also transmitted by crime: rape and incest.
- Children are becoming HIV Positive because of rape.
- Child victims of rapists spread the disease to other rapists who rape them.
- Men and women are becoming HIV Positive because of rape.
- A dramatically increasing number of members of the LGBTQ2 communities are infected and dying from HIV/AIDS.
- Update, March 2018. The medical science community in the Philippines has encountered HIV1-AE that may be resistant to some antiretroviral medications. This emphasizes the need for getting on a pharmacological program immediately and the need for precise laboratory testing once a field test has indicated positive.
At Risk: Children, Teens, LGBTQ2, in that order.
Among the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and two-spirit communities (LGBTQ2) in the Philippines, more needs to be done to provide medical outreach and education on risk patterns and prevention of the transmission of communicable diseases. HIV, Aids and Hepatitis probably top the list of preventable sexualy transmitted diseases.
According to RINJ regional coordinator Sharon Santiago, the RINJ Foundation is distributing “all that we can get” in the way of prophylactics and medications.
The Enemy is a Virus
Each “germ” is so small they can only be seen under a strong microscope. Most viruses hijack red blood cells to clone themselves. HIV is different and more sinister.
Think of this: about 200 different viruses can cause what we refer to as a “cold.” Many others cause the flu, chicken pox, polio, measles, mumps, and a variety of other diseases. There are no cures for viruses and most are fought by your body’s immune system. For many serious diseases, medical scientists have developed vaccines to prevent your body from getting the disease in the first place. HIV is awaiting such a vaccine.
Here is HIV. It directly attacks your immune system. Rather than attacking your red blood cells it goes after your white blood cells, your body’s disease fighting soldiers. This slowly reduces your defences against all disease and infections. There are no cures for HIV nor is there a vaccine that prevents you from being infected by HIV. Once enough of your white blood cells have been destroyed, you are reclassified as having AIDS.
A healthy young person is exposed to the virus. HIV enters their blood stream. A person can be infected for 10 years or more without showing symptoms. The person’s immune system begins to fight back. White blood cells attack the virus, but cannot kill HIV. HIV begins to destroy white blood cells. The patient’s immune system becomes severely damaged. The victim’s body can no longer fight microbiological invaders. Eventually another virus, such as pneumonia or the influenza, enters the body. The patient;s mortality risk becomes elevated.
Get Tested! Get Medical Help. Seek Pre-exposure Prophylaxis.
In the Philippines it takes two to three weeks or more to get HIV test results. It’s a decades old methodology. You need to take some initiatives.
Testing with full private results can take 20 minutes if you use a home testing method.
Since 2015 the World Health Organization has been warning the Philippines that the country has the most rapidly escalating HIV epidemic in the world.
“RINJ estimates that of known cases, there are 1000 new cases of HIV per month but we fear that the real number is impossible to determine because people are not being tested,” adds Santiago.
“It is very important that members of the LGBTQ2 communities get themselves tested through self-testing, a Civil Society NGO, a local Barangay medical unit or local hospital.”
Statistics released by the Philippines Department of Health (DOH) show an alarming percentage of LGBTQ2 communities are impacted by HIV. Among unknown (untested) cases, this is a possible death sentence. If tested and treated, HIV can be beaten.
According to PH DOH 7,363 HIV cases have been recorded in the first eight months of the year, including 891 AIDS cases and 334 deaths.
Purportedly there are 46,985 HIV cases recorded nationwide since 1984. The figure includes 4,556 AIDS cases and 2,303 deaths. These are the small percentile of reported cases. Millions of Filipinos never in their lives see a doctor or a nurse.
Finally responding to World Health Organization (WHO) warnings since 2015, this week the Philippines House of Representatives has passed an amending act to the Republic Act No. 8504, otherwise known as The Philippine Aids Prevention And Control Act Of 1998.
Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act
The new piece of legislature is called, “Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act”.
The preamble of the act sets out that Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) are public health concerns that have wide-ranging social, political, and economic repercussions.
“Responding to the HIV and AIDS epidemic is therefore imbued with public interest.
“The State shall uphold, respect, protect, fulfill, and promote human rights and dignity as the cornerstones of an effective response to the HIV and AIDS epidemic.
“The State shall guarantee the confidentiality, anonymity and voluntary nature of HIV testing; ensure the provision of non- discriminatory HIV and AIDS services; and, develop redress mechanisms for persons living with HIV to safeguard their civil, political, economic and social rights.
“The State shall recognize the vital role of affected individuals in propagating correct information and learning messages about HIV and AIDS and shall utilize their experience to educate the public about the disease.
The bill says the Republic of the Philippines shall:
- establish policies and programs to prevent the spread of HIV and deliver
treatment, care, and support services to Filipinos living with HIV in accordance with evidence-based strategies and approaches that uphold the principles of human rights, gender-responsiveness, and age-appropriateness, including meaningful participation of communities affected by the epidemic;
- adopt a multi-sectoral approach in responding to the HIV epidemic by ensuring that the whole of government, civil society organizations, and persons living with HIV are at the center of the process;
- ensure access to HIV and AIDS-related services by eliminating the climate of stigma and discrimination that surrounds the epidemic and the people directly and indirectly affected by it; and
- positively address and seek to eradicate conditions that aggravate the spread of HIV infection.
“This is a good start but looks like political mumbo jumbo until real humanitarian action is taken,” says RINJ’s Santiago.
PH Justice System gets an “F” From The RINJ Foundation
The RINJ Foundation adduces to the Philippines legislation that the state must seek to eradicate the epidemic of rape and incest in the Philippines.
No amount of rhetoric will fix this problem.
The Philippines justice system is completely 100% inept in prosecuting rapists and has no concept on how to repair this problem. Numerous cases launched by RINJ in several provinces are being tracked and closely recorded and documented. The data is shocking.
Drift, delay, incompetence and disinterest sum up the treatment of rape cases by a patriarchal system that is guilty of being a significant contributor to the crime.
In short, police, prosecutors and judges are reticent to prosecute rapists because in their role of daily pursuit of power and control over communities comprising their jurisdictions, they too are probably rapists in the majority. We adduce this based on anecdotal and first hand experiences and knowledge.
Judiciary So Corrupt the PH Cops Prefer to Kill Drug Criminals than to try and Prosecute but alas no interest in Rapists
The Law Enforcement & Justice Systems of the Philippines are so ineffectual, and buying a verdict is so easy, that the current administration prefers to kill drug dealers in the street lieu of trying to prosecute within the failed judiciary.
- Women complain in the Philippines that if they complain to police about a rape, they are likely to be raped again at the police station.
- Over 10 million women have worked outside of the country as domestic helpers while their children were raped at home and they themselves raped abroad.
RINJ estimates based on straw polls of help desk callers and other sources suggest that five out of ten females are sexually assaulted in the Philippines and that a growing number of males are victims of this crime, especially children.
It is also feared that among members of the gay community, unreported rape statistics are skyrocketing upwards.
Rape is all about power and control. In the Philippines over 60 million people have lost power and control of their own lives. The war between the elite and the poor includes rape as a weapon of oppression.
If Philippines legislators are serious about eradicating HIV, they can make a huge dent by eradicating impunity for rapists. – The RINJ Foundation
Learn About HIV to help prevent infection.
- Both male condoms and female condoms are available. They come in a variety of colours, textures, materials, and flavours.
- A condom is the most effective form of protection against HIV and other STIs. It can be used for vaginal and anal sex, and for oral sex performed on men.
- HIV can be passed on before ejaculation through normal secretions, and from the anus.
- It’s very important condoms are put on before any sexual contact occurs between the penis, vagina, mouth or anus.
- Avoid promiscuity. Loyal partners build better, safer families and communities.
- Lubricant, or lube, is often used to enhance sexual pleasure and safety by adding moisture to either the vagina or anus during sex.
- Lubricant can make sex safer by reducing the risk of vaginal or anal tears caused by dryness or friction, and can also prevent a condom tearing.
- Only water-based lubricant (such as K-Y Jelly) rather than an oil-based lubricant (such as Vaseline or massage and baby oil) should be used with condoms.
- Oil-based lubricants weaken the latex in condoms and can cause them to break or tear.
- HIV is spread only in certain body fluids from a person infected with HIV. These fluids are blood, semen, pre-seminal fluids, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk.
- HIV is spread mainly by having sex or sharing injection drug equipment, such as needles, with someone who has HIV.
- To reduce your risk of HIV infection, use condoms correctly every time you have vaginal, oral, or anal sex.
- Don’t inject drugs.
- If you don’t have HIV but are at high risk of becoming infected with HIV, talk to your health care provider about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). PrEP involves taking a specific HIV medicine every day to reduce the risk of HIV infection.
- Avoid promiscuity. Loyal partners build better, safer families and communities.
HIV is transmitted (spread) only in certain body fluids from a person infected with HIV:
- Pre-seminal fluids
- Rectal fluids
- Vaginal fluids
- Breast milk
HIV transmission is only possible if these fluids come in contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue or are directly injected into the bloodstream (from a needle or syringe). Mucous membranes are found inside the rectum, the vagina, the opening of the penis, and the mouth.
Remember, HIV is spread by:
- Having anal or vaginal sex with someone who has HIV without using a condom or taking medicines to prevent or treat HIV
- Sharing injection drug equipment, such as needles, with someone who has HIV
Warning: HIV can also spread from an HIV-infected woman to her child during pregnancy, childbirth (also called labor and delivery), or breastfeeding. This spread of HIV is called mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
Prevent Mother to Child Transmission at Birth
Take action now if you are pregnant. Get tested. Save your baby.
- Mother-to-child transmission of HIV is the spread of HIV from a woman with HIV to her child during pregnancy, childbirth (also called labor and delivery), or breastfeeding (through breast milk).
- Pregnant women with HIV must receive HIV medicines during pregnancy and childbirth to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. In some situations, a woman with HIV may have a scheduled cesarean delivery (sometimes called a C-section) to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV during delivery.
- Babies born to women with HIV should receive HIV medicines for 4 to 6 weeks after birth. The HIV medicines reduce the risk of infection from any HIV that may have entered a baby’s body during childbirth.
- Because HIV can be transmitted in breast milk, women with HIV should not breastfeed their babies. Baby formula is a safer alternative.
- If a woman takes HIV medicines during pregnancy and childbirth and her baby receives HIV medicines for 4 to 6 weeks after birth, the risk of transmitting HIV can be lowered to 2% or less.