The Department of Health (DOH) has reported more than 740 new cases of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the month of May, the highest number registered in one month over the last 30 years. HIV could lead to the incurable and often fatal acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
According to the latest HIV/AIDS Registry of the Philippines, there were 748 cases of HIV reported in May, of which 41 have progressed to full-blown AIDS, a condition in which the body's immune systems are attacked and damaged by the virus, ultimately leading to death.
"[This] is 51 per cent higher compared to the same period last year and is the highest number of cases reported since 1984," said the report.
It also noted that 95 per cent of the cases were still asymptomatic at the time of reporting.
Health Secretary Janette Garin on Thursday said the surge in the reported incidence of HIV in the country can be attributed to the free voluntary screening conducted by the DOH nationwide during the National HIV Testing Week in May. "During the free voluntary testing, we saw that many are infected with the virus without them knowing it," Garin told the Inquirer.
Offhand, she noted that in Metro Manila alone, at least 34 tested positive out of the 2,000 who availed of the free HIV screening.
"They were all asymptomatic," said Garin.
Of the new cases recorded in May, 96 per cent were males aged between 16 and 69 years old. The main modes of transmission were sexual contact and needle sharing among injecting drug users. At least 86 per cent of the cases were among males who have sex with males.
Most of the cases were from Metro Manila, Calabarzon and Central Visayas.
In May, the DOH announced that it was expecting a 10- to 20-per cent spike of HIV cases following its more aggressive campaign. It has urged people at risk of infection to avail of the free testing offered by the government.
The National HIV Testing Week, a first in the country, was aimed at pushing more people at risk-males having sex with males and injecting drug users-to get tested so they will know their status and subsequently benefit from the free antiretroviral therapy offered in 19 treatment hubs across the country.