World AIDS Day 2018: Two in Three new HIV infections are among young people, points to the critical importance of HIV testing
MANILA, 1 December 2018—The Philippines still represents one of the highest growing number in AIDS cases, there are around 32 cases of new HIV infections every day according to HIV/AIDS and ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP) in September 2018. The largest at risk population are young people, 2 in 3 cases are among the 15-24 age group, studies indicate over the past five years.
The World AIDS Day 2018 is observed with the theme “Know your Status” to raise awareness on the importance of HIV testing and to increase access to services for adolescents and young people.
On the occasion of World AIDS Day today, the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC), in partnership with UNICEF Philippines is holding the 4th National Young People’s Planning Forum (NYPPF). The Forum aims to provide children and young people an opportunity to develop a strategic operational response to the 6th AIDS Medium Term Plan by the Philippine National AIDS Council for 2017-2022. Over a hundred children and young people from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao will take part. The proxy consent protocol, a procedure that works around Philippine laws to allow minors to get tested for HIV without parental consent, will also be launched at the event.
“We are very much alarmed of the increasing rate of new HIV infection among children, especially our young key affected population, that is further aggravated by the low uptake of services by these young people. CWC is steadfast with its commitment to uphold the best interest of the child and to ensure that all children enjoy their rights, including access to HIV testing services that is a crucial step in the fulfillment of their rights to survival and protection,” CWC Executive Director, Mary Mitzi Cajayon-Uy expresses.
According to the 2016 AIDS Epidemic Model (AEM) estimates, HIV infections among the 15-17 age group run up to 1,976 monthly, but only 158 have been ever diagnosed with HIV in a month. This means that around 9 in 10 from the 15-17 age group who have been identified to be at risk do not get tested. This causes delays in treatment, even death.
“The World AIDS Day 2018 theme ‘Know Your Status’ reflects the need to intensify efforts to screen adolescents, especially those who are at risk of HIV. Too many lives are wasted and this can be prevented by ensuring HIV testing at the right time. UNICEF provides strong support to our government and NGO partners to help young people at risk get tested, access the right information and receive adolescent-friendly services from health and social workers that serve them,” UNICEF Philippines Representative, Lotta Sylwander says.
Data shows that all diagnosed HIV cases among 15 to 17-year olds were transmitted through risky behaviour. Risky behaviours among men who have sex with men start early but access to services are delayed. In the Philippines, according to the 2015 Integrated HIV Behavioral and Serologic Surveillance (IHBSS), around 10% of men who have sex with men started having sex at the age of 12, while the median age of first sex for the total sample size is 16. The first anal sex is 17, first condom use is 18 but first HIV test is 22 and the median start of treatment is 28.
The 2015 Integrated HIV Behavioural and Serologic Surveillance (IHBSS) also revealed that:
- Adolescents (15 to 17 years old) have the same risks as adults because around 49% of MSM had anal sex in the past 12 months as compared to 60% in the 18 to 20 age group and 67% in the 18 to 20 age group.
- More than half of young M/TSM do not have access to condoms. Also, young M/TSM are not using condoms consistently.
- There is also very low knowledge on HIV in young men who have sex with men, especially on knowledge on transmission, prevention, and treatment.
- Diagnosis among young MSM does not translate to treatment. Thus, most who get tested do not proceed to treatment.
- Young pregnant mothers are also at risk, thus may transmit HIV from the mother to the child
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