HIV/AIDS in the Philippines is still considered at a low-prevalence level by UNAIDS. Since 1984 to September 2012 there have been 10,830 reported cases of persons with HIV infection and 353 deaths related to AIDS.1 Despite these relatively low numbers compared to other countries, there are disturbing trends in the transmission of HIV in the country. In the UNAIDS 2010 Global Report, the Philippines is one of only seven countries where the rate of HIV infections has increased by more than 25%. From one case every three days in 2000, the rate has increased to one case every three hours in 2011.2
The primary mode of transmission of HIV in the country is still through sexual contact however there has been a shift in the type of sexual transmission of the disease. In 1985, the proportion of types of sexual transmission of HIV for all reported cases was 10% homosexual, 20% bisexual, and 70% heterosexual. By 2012 the proportions have shifted to 41% homosexual, 26% bisexual, and 33% heterosexual. There has also been an alarming increase in the rate of infection among injectable drug users. Although overseas Filipino workers comprise only 19% of all reported cases, their rate of infection is also increasing.3
The most at-risk populations for infection in the country are males who have sex with males (MSM), injecting drug users, and female sex workers and their clients. Factors that contribute to increasing HIV infection rates include ambivalent attitudes regarding condom use, needle sharing and HIV testing; high mobility among overseas workers; use of social media to meet sexual partners; having multiple and concurrent partners; and risky sexual behaviour among youths and young adults particularly in urban areas.
Although there have been growing awareness of the plight of people living with HIV (PLHIV), stigmatization, discrimination and exclusion still happen. Fear of discrimination contributes to under-reporting of cases. The Stigma Index Report indicate that for the Philippines, the exclusion of PLHIV from family, community and religious events is related not only to the person’s HIV status but also on the perceived identity of the person as homosexual, sex worker, or drug user.4
The Philippines faces a grave challenge to reverse its HIV infection rate. Though there have been efforts by the government and NGOs to raise awareness about HIV prevention, much still needs to be done. The country cannot remain complacent with its current low prevalence status. Its at-risk populations need to be treated with dignity and respect while at the same time they should be provided with the means to make responsible decisions to protect themselves and others. HIV infection should no longer be a matter silence and shame for a few but rather it should be a common cause for concern and action for all Filipinos.
1 Philippines HIV and AIDS Registry as of September 2012 in http://issuu.com/chrio_one/docs/nec_hiv_sept-aidsreg2012
2 Philippine National AIDS Council, 2012 Global AIDS Response Progress Report in
3 Philippines HIV and AIDS Registry.
4 People Living with HIV Stigma Index: Asia Pacific Regional Analysis 2011, p. 28 in