On December 2010 alone, 174 new cases were reported, representing a 38-percent increase compared to the same month in 2009. It was also the highest number of cases reported in a single month since 1984.
By ACE ALEGRE
BAGUIO CITY – The Philippines is one among seven countries in the world with a steady increase in AIDS cases. Other countries with steadily increasing HIV cases are Armenia, Bangladesh, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Krygyzstan and Tajikistan.
The highly vulnerable group, based on risk analysis in the Philippines, shifted from commercial sex workers to “men having sex with men.”
“That is the trend,” government physician-epidemiologist Celia Flor Brillantes warned here during World AIDS Day rites this Friday.
World AIDS Day takes place on Dec 1 every year to raise awareness of the global AIDS pandemic – 34 million people worldwide have been living with AIDS as of 2010.
“That is why we need to continuously inform and educate,” Brillantes said while urging everyone to take part in the awareness campaign especially among the risk groups.
At least 1,000 night club entertainers joined Friday’s parade and forum here.
Shifts in vulnerability
Data from the United Nations show that in the Philippines, most of the new recorded cases of AIDS are males who got the virus through sex with other males.
HIV is the virus that causes the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, a disease in which the body’s immune systems are attacked, weakened and undermined. This condition eventually causes death.
The National Epidemiology Center of the Department of Health (DOH) disclosed, during the release of the United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) 2011 State of the World’s Children report in Quezon City this week, that the main mode of sexual transmission has changed since 2007 from heterosexual sex to sex between men.
Dr. Eric Tayag of the DOH said that for every one female infected, four men are infected via homosexual contact.
Since 1984, the Philippines recorded 6,015 HIV cases, of which 5,158 are “asymptomatic,” while 857 have become full-blown AIDS cases. The bulk (at least 4,999) are males and 1,305 are females.
On December 2010 alone, the DOH said, 174 new cases were reported, representing a 38-percent increase compared to the same month in 2009. It was also the highest number of cases reported in a single month since 1984.
Tayag added that of the 174 HIV cases recorded in December 2010, 14 were overseas Filipino workers, or OFWs, all of them males. Most of the 174 came from the National Capital Region. Three were full-blown AIDS cases, and all of them are males.
The DOH identified three risk groups from which the majority of the country’s HIV patients come from: men who have sex with men (MSM), female sex workers, and injection drug users.
Among persons 15-24 years old, the most common mode of HIV transmission is in men who have sex with men (65 percent), the DOH also noted.
DOH also said that 80-percent of HIV cases are men, many of them are men who have sex with men (MSM) between the ages 20 and 29.
“Global AIDS Epidemic”
Researchers with the global AIDS epidemic note that sex between men is “significant” because it involves anal sex – a practice that, when no protection is used, carries more risks of HIV transmission than unprotected vaginal sex.
Historically, AIDS was first discovered among self-identified young gay men in the USA. As the global epidemic rages on, consistently high levels of HIV infection have been found among men who have sex with men in many countries.
But in most countries, men who have sex with men are less visible. Sex between men is stigmatized, officially denied and criminalized in other parts of the world. This adds to the vulnerability of men who have sex with men, and makes it harder to carry out relevant HIV prevention campaigns.
In places where homosexuality is not tolerated, men who have sex with men often hide their same-sex relations from friends and families to avoid persecution. Many have wives, or they have sex with women as well as men. This means added risk of transmitting HIV to their female partners if they became infected.
Worldwide, it is estimated that sex between men accounts for 5-percent to 10-percent of HIV infections. Although the situation varies between countries, in much of the developed world including the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and many parts of Western Europe, more people have become infected with HIV through male-male sex than through any other route of transmission.
A multi-city study in the U.S found that one in five men who had sex with men were infected with HIV while official U.S. statistics show the rate of new HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with men is 44 times that of other men.
Sex between men is also a big reason behind the spread of HIV in other regions.
In Latin America, sex between men is the primary route of HIV transmission, too. HIV prevalence in some cities in Colombia ranges from 10-percent to 25-percent. The extent in which HIV and AIDS afflict men who have sex with men in Eastern Europe and Central Asia is under-reported by official statistics. It reported that only one percent of HIV infections were transmitted via this route.
However, small studies among MSM reflect HIV prevalence of up to 5-percent among MSM in Georgia, 6-percent in Russia and in Odessa, while Ukraine HIV prevalence among MSM is 23-percent.
In Asia, HIV prevalence levels among men who have sex with men have reached as high as 18-percent in parts of India; 29-percent in Myanmar and 31-percent in Bangkok, Thailand – figures that are many times higher than those found among these countries’ overall populations.