NCR Declares HIV/AIDS a Public Health Emergency

Crisis in Numbers

2017 saw an unprecedented spike in HIV/AIDS cases. The number of HIV/AIDS reports in May alone surpassed the thousand mark for the first time with 1,098 new cases. This was a huge leap from the 741 cases of the same time last year. The latest statistics states that for June, 1,013 people tested positive with HIV/AIDS were recorded. This makes Philippines have the fastest in HIV/AIDS growth in the Asia Pacific.

These recent data from  HIV/AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP) presents an alarming picture of how the disease is steadily spreading throughout our population. Without immediate action, the number of nationwide cases could reach up to 201,000 in 8 years.

Nowhere is this more evident than in NCR. The National Capital Region has consistently held the record for most HIV cases. It currently has 18,823 out of the total number of  35,023 cases in the Philippines. That’s about 42% of all HIV/AIDS cases in the country.

Unity in Purpose

This recent development prompted all 17 mayors of NCR to sign a resolution, making HIV/AIDS a public health emergency. This agreement would entail each city and municipality to implement an emergency public health programme that would address the disease’s consistent rise in cases. The Department of Health believes that “accelerating the response in NCR and in other high burden areas will be significant in halting the advance of HIV in the Philippines.”

Secretary Ubial had met with the city officials. In this meeting, she declared, “We can buy all the drugs that we need, we can buy all the test kits that we need. We can find the government funding to do this, but what we need is for our cities to join with the department in making sure that we deliver through new and innovative delivery systems.”

A Promising Step Forward

UN’s 90-90-90 strategy was brought up in this meeting. This plan intends to inform 90% of all people with HIV of their status, provide the 90% of those diagnosed with continuous treatment, and suppress the virus for the 90% for the next three years. Its proposed implementation garnered support from the mayors. Taguig City Mayor Laarni ‘Lani’ Cayetano was quoted saying, “I am confident that all cities in the NCR will heed the call to take the actions necessary to reach our 90-90-90 goals by 2020. As the chair of the Philippines League of Cities, I call on all cities in the country to join us and act now.”

Other programs would concentrate on education, prevention of new HIV transmission for younger Filipinos, promotion of HIV testing, and elimination of mother-to-child transmission.

UNAIDS expressed their praise for the mayors’ immediate and deliberate response to the spreading disease. Eamonn Murphy, the UNAIDS Director of the Regional Support Team for Asia and the Pacific, appreciated our extensive efforts. He said that “The Philippines responded quickly and innovatively in partnership with the community to the first wave of the epidemic. Strong, pragmatic, and committed leadership shows that the nation has the capacity and the resolve to meet the challenges presented by the new wave of growing infections, particularly among young gay men and other men who have sex with men and transgender people.”