‘Gay sex’ top cause of HIV infection

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Around 84 percent of the 393 new cases of human immunodeficiency virus-acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV-AIDS) infection reported in April this year was contracted by “males having sex with other males”, according to Malacañang.

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Citing reports from the Department of Health (DOH), Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said that most of the victims were male, comprising 96 percent of the total number of cases listed in April.

“The median age was 28 years. The age range was 18 to 80 [years old],” said Coloma.

According to him, most cases were seen in the 20-29 age group which comprised 59 percent of the total.

“Reported modes of transmission were sexual contact and needle sharing among injecting drug users. And males having sex with other males [84 percent] was the predominant type of sexual transmission. That’s what DOH has reported,” the Palace official added.

Most of the new cases were reported in the National Capital Region, Region VII (Cebu), Region IV-A (Cabarzon), Region III (Central Luzon), and Region XI (Davao City).

“In all, the Philippines still has a low HIV prevalence at 0.05 percent among the general adult population as of 2013,” Coloma stressed.

Based on the DOH’s HIV Registry, 25 percent of the newly reported cases came from young people aged 15 to 24. The health department also cited that the HIV risks for this group included early initiation of sex (as early as 14 years of age) and scant knowledge on HIV prevention compared to older age groups.

“Our national goal and objective raised during the Philippine National AIDS Council in their 2011-2016 medium term plan is that by 2016 the Philippines shall have less than 66 HIV cases per 100,000 population by preventing the further spread of HIV infection and reducing the impact of the disease on individuals, families, sectors, and communities,” said Coloma.

To do this, the official noted that the DOH has embarked on a targeted education campaign and behavioral intervention, diagnosis and treatment of sexually-transmitted infections, voluntary HIV testing and counseling, managing tuberculosis among people with HIV, provision of anti-retroviral drugs, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, and coming up with a PhilHealth outpatient HIV package.

“There’s a positive and comprehensive development in our campaign. I would like to clear that the HIV testing and counseling are purely voluntary and not mandatory,” the Palace official further explained.

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