While the prevalence of HIV and AIDS is still low in the Philippines, the country’s HIV & AIDS registry for 2013 reveals a 79% increase in newly reported HIV cases, compared to the same period in 2012. Filipinos who engage in risky behaviour, such as intravenous drug users and those who perform unprotected sex with multiple partners are most at-risk. And they are mostly adolescents and young adults.
The Philippines now is one of only two countries in Asia, and one of seven globally, where the number of new HIV cases has increased by over 25 per cent from 2001 to 2009.
Primary prevention of HIV infection for key populations has to start in adolescence mainly because infections now occur at a younger age — 20-29. In 2010 alone, more infections were reported among males 15-19 years old than between 1984 and 2009.
Unprotected sex remains the leading mode of transmission, with men having sex with men (MSMs) now accounting for an increased number of new cases. In some areas, one in three persons most at-risk are in the 15-17 age group. About a third of the Philippines’ new HIV infections is being reported among the 15-24 year old age group, up from 10 per cent in 2004.
New infections are largely concentrated among key populations with specific risk behaviors, such as unprotected male-to-male sex, transactional sex and injecting drug use. Half of the respective key population group is 22-23 years or younger, and the initiation to sex and drug use is between 14 and 19 years on average.
Further, only five per cent of HIV-positive pregnant women have received antiretroviral medicines to prevent mother-to-child transmission. Very few of those at-risk have taken an HIV test, with the number at zero for those under 18 years.