PHL gov’t to spend P1.38B yearly to treat HIV cases
GOVERNMENT will likely have to spend approximately P1.38 billion annually by 2015 to provide treatment to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive Filipinos, a member of Congress said Friday.
“The amount is based on the projection that some 46,000 HIV-positive Filipinos may require treatment by then, multiplied by P30,000 per head,” said LPG-MA Rep. Arnel Ty, one of the authors of a bill seeking to renew the country’s outmoded, 15-year-old AIDS Prevention and Control Law.
Ty said he simply based the cost on the state-run Philippine Health Insurance Corp.’s Outpatient HIV/AIDS Treatment Package, which pays P30,000 every year.
HIV causes AIDS, or the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. The disease that ravages the human body’s immune system still does not have any known cure. However, anti-retroviral therapy (ART) can slow down the ailment.
A total of 3,115 HIV-positive Filipinos were on ART as of September 2012, up by 50 percent from only 2,087 in January 2012, according to Ty.
Meanwhile, 284 new HIV cases were diagnosed in the country in November 2012, up 34 percent compared to the 212 reported in the same month of 2011.
The new cases discovered – 275 males and nine females – have a median age of 28 years, with those in the 20 to 29 age-group comprising 52 percent.
Except for two injecting drug users, all of the new cases were contaminated due to sexual contact, with males having sex with other males accounting for 82 percent.
The new cases included 35 overseas Filipino workers (32 males, three females), who all acquired the virus via sexual contact.
Citing National Epidemiology Center statistics, Ty said the new infections brought to 3,045 the cumulative number of new HIV cases discovered from January to November 2012, up 46 percent versus the 2,081 spotted in the same 11-month period in 2011.
Ty said the Philippine HIV and AIDS Registry, which began passive surveillance of the disease in 1984, now lists an aggregate of 11,409 cases, of which 61 percent, or 6,985 infections, were detected from 2010 onward.
The House has already passed on second reading the bill mandating forceful new strategies to suppress the HIV epidemic.
House Bill 6751 directs the multi-sectoral Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC) to draw up a fresh six-year program with definite targets to reverse the average 62 percent annual increase in new HIV cases in the country since 2010.
HIV is being spread in the country primarily through high-risk sexual contact, predominantly male-to-male sex, and secondarily via needle-sharing among illicit drug users, according to the Department of Health.
“We are confident the bill, once finally enacted with the cooperation of the Senate, will take our fight against HIV/AIDS to the next level with highly focused actions,” Ty said.
“The measure will also go a long way in improving the living conditions of HIV-positive people through greater access to treatment, care and support,” he pointed out.
The bill likewise sets tougher penalties for entities and individuals who discriminate against HIV-positive people as well as those who violate their rights to confidentiality, he added.
Besides Ty, the bill’s other authors are Representatives Alfredo Marañon III, Kaka Bag-ao, Janette Garin, Jorge Banal, Maria Isabelle Climaco, Imelda Marcos, Lani Mercado-Revilla, Florencio Flores Jr., Nancy Catamco, Walden Bello, Angelo Palmones, Sharon Garin and Jun Omar Ebdane.
Sen. Miriam Santiago has a counterpart measure, Senate Bill 3072, in the upper house.
The PNAC has warned that up to 46,000 Filipinos could be diagnosed with HIV by 2015.
The Philippines is one of only seven countries in the world struggling to cope with rapidly increasing new HIV infections.
While the spread of HIV has slowed in many parts of the world, it has been growing at an alarming rate in the Philippines, Armenia, Bangladesh, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, according to the World Health Organization.