April 13, 2011
The Philippines needs a refocused political commitment to curbing new HIV infections, the UNAIDS country coordinator said recently. If Filipino leaders do not muster the courage and take clear stands on issues such as promoting condoms to help prevent HIV, the country could see some 10,000 new HIV infections annually, Teresita Marie Bagasao said. Treatment costs would equal about P300 million (US $6.9 million), or more than triple the current Department of Health's HIV/AIDS budget, she said.
The government also needs to provide safe-sex education to the populace, Bagasao said.
Between 2001 and 2009, the rate of new HIV infections declined in 33 countries -- including 22 in sub-Saharan Africa -- by at least 25 percent, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted last month. However, the Philippines was one of just seven nations where new infections rose by more than 25 percent during the decade.
Weak national infrastructure, financial shortfalls, and discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS are among key barriers to prevention, treatment, care, and support, Ban said.
Even counting the more than $25 million in grants from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, the HIV/AIDS campaign in the Philippines has been underfunded, said Bagasao, who called for clear government policies on HIV/AIDS.