PILIPINAS GOT… HIV

PILIPINAS GOT… HIV

“Ang mangopya magkaka-HIV!” my professor in gynecology would say.

True enough, HIV is more serious than a failing grade. And today in our country, it’s getting worse than you think you know.

From an average of one HIV case every three days in the year 2000, the Department of Health (DOH) registered 12 new cases daily in January this year. These are equivalent to 380 new cases which is 79% higher compared to the 212 cases recorded in January 2012.

“(This is) the most number of new cases per month since 1984 (when the registry started). The cumulative total is now at 12,082,” Health Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag said. The report also showed that 1,194 of these have progressed into AIDS. AIDS is the last stage after acquiring HIV. The death toll is 353.

Bulk of the new HIV cases were:

  • males and were acquired through males having sex with males (MSM). This is a shift in the predominant trend of sexual transmission from a high heterosexual contact in 2007. Studies also showed that males having sex with males used social media to hook up with sexual partners.
  • aged 20 to 29 years old. But, there’s also a growing number of infected young people, aged 15 to 24. As a response, some organizations launched HIV campaigns targeting the youth.
  • geographically from the National Capital Region. Also, HIV positive OFWs have an increasing trend.

Of the 12,082 HIV positive cases reported from 1984 to 2013, 93% (11,181) were infected through sexual contact, making it the predominant mode of transmission. 4% (444) through needle sharing among injecting drug users and less than one percent of the cases were through mother-to-child transmission (59), blood transfusion (20), and needle prick injury (three).

The Philippine HIV and AIDS registry also reported that most cases are asymptomatic at the time of reporting. How about the people who are asymptomatic but haven’t got tested? Many different reasons may keep them from getting tested for HIV but while they are not aware of having the disease, the virus is continuously spreading. If those people underwent HIV testing, could you imagine how the statistics above would be?

According to the 2012 Global Report of UNAIDS, new incidents of HIV infections across 25 low- and middle-income countries dropped by more than 50% in a decade (2001 to 2011). Globally, the AIDS response is on the upswing. Sadly, they said, Philippine story is something else.

Findings in the Philippines went against the trend and painted a grimmer picture. The report revealed that the AIDS epidemic in the country is on the rise and showed a 25% increase in new HIV incidents in the country.

“Although HIV incidence in the country is less than one percent of the population, HIV cases in the country are increasing. If the trend continues, DOH projects up to 37,000 new cases of HIV in 2015, the supposed deadline to reverse HIV incidents set by UNAIDS,” Dr. Tayag noted.

Prevention is the only cure. Now that the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 (RA 10354) or the Reproductive Health Law has been enacted, may it be adequately enforced along with efforts from the other government and non-government agencies to help in achieving our goal of “getting to zero” by 2015.

This eye-opener calls for continuous prayer and love revolution. I believe that any human effort will not suffice unless God intervenes. It may seem impossible, based on the statistics presented, to reach the goal; but if you believe that God cares, there is hope.

Even if you are living with HIV/AIDS, it is not the end of your life! Purity is more than abstaining from sex, it’s about a heart being changed by God. In fact, there are people like you who, despite their past, are using their lives as an opportunity to share God’s love to others. People need the Lord. Let’s help each other!

Guest post by Rovy Jervis P. Malasan, TLW volunteer

Aging with AIDS: The Bitter Irony of Living with a Disease

Aging with AIDS: The Bitter Irony of Living with a Disease

Scientific research has brought wonders and astonishing changes to human life, especially in the field of medicine.

However, despite years of extensive development and experimentation, some medical conditions still remain incurable. One of those is HIV/AIDS.

Some figures say that as of 2011, approximately 1.1 million people in the United States are HIV positive, and 600,000 more have died during the decades of the HIV pandemic. Medical experts say that the life expectancy of people who are HIV-positive but are not diagnosed with full-blown AIDS have risen significantly from 10 years in 1996 to an average of 22.5 years in 2005.

Aging with AIDS, however, has proved to be not as perfect as it seemed to several survivors.  While the life expectancy of people who are being treated for AIDS and HIV have been impressively and steadily increasing over recent years, AIDS treatment expert Anthony Fauci says that many common diseases of old age “tend to occur with a greater frequency in people who have been HIV infected for a long period of time.” Among these diseases are heart disease, cancer, and kidney problems. And it is also worth noting that these diseases are not cheap ones—the medications and treatments they require often come at lofty prices.

One of the biggest issues AIDS patients have to constantly deal with is depression. This comes not only from the personal pain they have to battle with, but also from the experience of losing other loved ones and friends from the same disease. The story of renowned AIDS activist and speaker Bill Rydwels is a good example. Rydwels was diagnosed as HIV positive in 1985 and in the same year, his long-time partner Franco Prieto died of AIDS. As of 2011, at the age of 78, Rydwels was still alive. He says he didn’t expect to live that long, but those years following Prieto’s death are not his happiest either. He had been previously diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma and was taking regular medications for high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and high cholesterol. Incidentally, Ron Swanda, another HIV-positive activist, shares more or less the same experiences and sentiments as Rydwels, and research has proven that depression and stigma are two of the biggest problems that most AIDS patients have to face. In fact, a doctor that handles patients suffering from AIDS also shares that for one of his patients, the grief had become so heavy that by the time he was 50, the patient was asking “Why am I here? This isn’t what I planned for”.

One quote from Rydwels that really stuck to me is this:

“You didn’t live with AIDS, you died with AIDS.”

Reading and hearing about the persistent struggles of those who have aged with AIDS teaches us that at the end of the day, mere survival doesn’t guarantee happiness. People like Rydwels and and Swanda may have lived past their and their doctors’ expectations, but the irony is that it’s simply not how they used to live anymore. Friends and loved ones have gone, they have to depend on copious amounts of medication, and continue to suffer from not just one, but several different health complications that are not even part of the main disease.

Perhaps the best lesson we can learn from this is that yes, medical advancement has made AIDS and HIV less virulent (or fatal, if you may), but it doesn’t make it less agonizing. And that at the end of the day, cliché as it may sound, prevention is still far better than cure. So does prolonged life expectancy for HIV-positive patients mean that people should embrace promiscuity and forget about the fear of AIDS? No. If these stories of survival can teach us anything, it is that life (in the earthly sense), is fleeting and temporary; and that

while medical treatments can momentarily deal with our misfortunes, they still can’t account for the heavier consequences of our actions.

The best part is that the process of healing goes way beyond the realm of the physical. As the stories of these long-standing HIV patients have showed us, more that physical healing, what they really need is to know that there is still someone who cares, and that despite the apparent nearness of death, life is still worth living. If you are dealing with depression stemming from an incurable disease, or if you know someone who is going through a similar struggle, you may get in touch with World Vision Philippines’ Channels of Hope.

 *****

Post by Jessamine Pacis, TLW volunteer. Jessamine is a writer, soon-to-be law student, and forgiven child of God. A proud INFP, she can usually be found daydreaming or consuming copious amounts of cereal at any time of the day. She prattles about random musings and her imperfect (yet beautiful) journey with Christ at itsjesss.wordpress.com.


Safe Sex

Safe Sex

           

Is safe sex really safe? If it’s safe, then how safe it is? Can someone claim and prove condom use is absolutely effective from contracting STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections), HIV/AIDS, or getting someone pregnant?

Today, it’s okay to respond to your sexual urge when it kicks, as long as you have a condom at hand—they call this “responsibility.” It’s okay to respond to your libido as long as you love each other—they call this “respect.” Sex has become so casual that its value is now reduced to temporary pleasure devoid of true respect and responsibility.

If you think highly of someone else’s welfare before you think of satisfying your sex drive, then that’s what true respect and responsibility is. Welfare means the good, safety, and protection for the person, the family, and the society he/she belongs to. Sadly, protection from getting STIs and getting pregnant are the kinds of protection girls and boys often think of. If you really want safe sex, then why not get married and be faithful?

“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” -Hebrews 13:4

Photo Credit: fb:isiantigua