9.4M living with HIV don’t know their status –UN
By Paulo Loreto Lim
Tomorrow marks the 30th World AIDS Day observance, which both encourages the public to get tested for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in effort to stop the spread of the infection, along with campaigning to end discrimination and stigmatization of those affiliated with HIV or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
According to the United Nation, “Around the world, 37 million people are living with HIV, the highest number ever, yet a quarter do not know that they have the virus.” In terms of the Asia-Pacific region, UN data also shows around 74 percent of those with HIV/AIDS are aware of their status.
They note, issues such as stigma, discrimination, or lack of confidentiality play a role in the public not getting tested, along with accessibility to such services.
In the Philippines, organizations like Love Yourself Inc. have made it possible for individuals to access HIV testing for free, along with offering assurances of confidentiality.
Last November 24, National HIV Testing Day, the organization held their Hot Doctors of ‘Pinas event.
“These testing events are the organization’s efforts to reach out to more people for HIV testing, especially the youth,” the organization explained. “People who can’t come to the clinics [or] who may have not gotten tested because of several factors—issues regarding their location, work schedule, lifestyle, even those who are uncomfortable to submit to screening due to stigma or lack of information—are offered a convenient alternative that maintains high standards of discretion, efficiency, confidentiality, and accuracy.”
Love Yourself Inc. regularly provides testing services at sites across Metro Manila.
For World AIDS Day, the organization launched their first billboard campaign featuring actors Tony Labrusca and JC Santos, along with Miss Universe-Philippines 2018 Catriona Gray.
In addition to treatment and knowing one’s status, the World AIDS Day organization also hopes to tackle discrimination.
“People still face ignorance and discrimination that can limit their opportunities, preventing them from living full and happy lives,” the organization notes on their website. “HIV means you are more likely to live in poverty, and more likely to have poor mental health.”
Every year, they encourage the public to don a red ribbon.
“It shows everyone—especially people living with HIV and their families—your support,” they explained.
This year, the group is promoting their #RockTheRibbon campaign.
Last month, representatives from the Department of Health-Region VI (DOH-6) introduced the “LHIVE FREE” campaign, which intends to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS.
“There is a need to eliminate HIV-related stigma and discrimination,” said DOH-6 Sexually Transmitted Infections nurse coordinator Caroline Tumabotabo.
She said the campaign will disseminate information about HIV/AIDS, along with producing educational materials for schools and other local institutions.
Earlier this year, during a consultative meeting focused on responsible parenting and reproductive health, the Aklan Provincial Health Office revealed all 17 of the province’s municipalities have at least one reported case of HIV/AIDS.
As of May 2018, there were a total of 165 reported cases of HIV/AIDS in the province. Kalibo, the province’s capital, had the most reported cases with 48; followed by Malay, which includes tourist destination Boracay, with 35./PLL, WDJ