In the Philippines, HIV/AIDS continues to be a public health threat with an average of 48 recorded cases per day. This situation is only worsened with the stigma that comes with it, affecting the lives of people living with HIV (PLHIV) and perpetuating the spread of misinformation concerning the virus.
As we commemorate World AIDS Day (WAD) this December 1, it is high time for us to be united and express support to our kababayans suffering from it. This year’s WAD comes with the theme “Empowering Filipino Communities to Lead in the HIV and AIDS Response.” With communities leading the way for HIV awareness coupled with the presence of reproductive health services, HIV prevention, treatment, and care can be more accessible for every Filipino.
Learn about HIV
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a type of virus that attacks the body’s immune system. This can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), the most advanced stage of the disease. HIV is transmitted through bodily fluids like blood, semen, vaginal fluids, anal fluids, and breast milk. Contrary to some common misconceptions, it cannot be spread through kissing, coughing, sneezing, or spitting.
Signs and Symptoms
Some common symptoms of HIV are fever, headache, rashes, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, and diarrhea. However, having these symptoms alone doesn’t mean you have HIV as they can also be caused by other illnesses. The infection can also be asymptomatic, slowly weakening the immune system without showing any symptoms.
It is best to get tested to know your status and the health measures recommended for you. In the country, public and private health facilities as well as community-based organizations (CBOs) offer HIV testing and counseling. There are also HIV self-test kits that you can use if you prefer to get tested within your own autonomy and privacy. The Love Yourself Inc. is a CBO that provides free HIV testing and screening. You can set an appointment through this link https://loveyourself.ph/set-appointments/ and by choosing your desired time and location. Aside from testing, Love Yourself Inc. also offers other services such as interactive consultation, hormone therapy, and other HIV Treatment-related services and vaccination.
How to Prevent HIV
For people who have tested negative but are at high risk of contracting HIV, Pre Exposure Prophylaxis or PrEP can be used in the prevention of the disease. PrEP is a type of medication in the form of a pill that inhibits HIV enzymes to prevent the formation of infection. The consistent use of the pill has been proven to lower the chance of HIV infection by up to 92% compared to those who didn’t receive it. PrEP Pilipinas is a project under Lover Yourself Inc. that provides PrEP services in different parts of the country. Additionally, basic PrEP services are offered in all Hi-Precision Diagnostics locations nationwide as well as in MediPrime clinics.
What to Do if You Contracted HIV
If you suspect that you may have contracted HIV, it is important to seek immediate medical attention. RA 11166 or the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act mandates the establishment of policies and programs addressing the spread of HIV and the delivery of accessible HIV- and AIDS-related services. Through this act, testing, medication, and confinement for HIV and AIDS are covered by PhilHealth. You can access a list of DOH-Designated HIV Treatment Hubs and Primary HIV Care Facilities via this link: https://www.aidsdatahub.org/sites/default/files/resource/eb-harp-august-aidsreg2021.pdf
Thanks to recent medical advancements, HIV is no longer considered an inevitable death sentence. The discovery of the "Undetectable = Untransmittable" (U=U) concept shows that when recommended medication is taken consistently and reaches an undetectable viral load, HIV becomes nearly impossible to spread through sexual contact. Hence with the right intervention, this condition can be manageable which paints a more optimistic future for PLHIV.
Being diagnosed with the virus can be mentally and emotionally taxing, so seeking support from your loved ones is vital for your overall treatment and care. Emotional support is key to cope with feelings of isolation and to overcome possible discrimination. Connecting with people with the same experiences can also be helpful in harboring acceptance and a sense of community. Some organizations that forward the fight against HIV/AIDS in the Philippines include Project Red Ribbon Care Management Foundation, Inc., Positive Action Foundation Philippines Incorporated (PAFPI), Love Yourself Inc., and the AIDS Society of the Philippines (ASP).
World AIDS Day 2023
In observance of WAD, the Department of Health will spearhead the launch of the inaugural “1st Metro Manila AIDS Walk: A Walk to End AIDS by 2030” on December 2, 2023, at Rizal Park, Manila. With the aim of empowering Filipino communities in the fight against HIV and AIDS, the walk for a cause will start at 4:30 AM at the Quirino Grandstand. The event will also offer free HIV services at the venue including HIV testing, condoms and lubricants, and HIV counseling.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). HIV Basics.
LoveYourself Inc. (2020, November 11). HIV Prevention. https://loveyourself.ph/hiv-prevention/
The rights of persons with HIV. (2019, January 18). Philstar.com.
World Health Organization. (2023, July 13). HIV and AIDS.
World Health Organization. (2019, November 30). HIV testing in the Philippines: What is the
best option for you? https://www.who.int/philippines/news/feature-stories/detail/hiv-testing-in-the-philippines-what-is-the-best-option-for-you