DOH records highest number of HIV cases since 1984

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The first case of HIV infection in the Philippines was reported in 1984.

(CNN Philippines) — Reported cases of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection have reached their highest since 1984, with unprotected sexual contact between males being the most common mode of transmission.

In February 2015, there were 646 new HIV Absero-positive individuals, with an average of 20 cases being diagnosed every day, as compared to the average of 17 cases daily in 2014.

This is 33% higher compared to the 486 cases recorded in the same last period last year, according to the Department of Health (DOH) Epidemiology Bureau.

Of the 646 HIV cases recorded in February this year, 586 (91%) were caused by unprotected sexual contact, of which 84% (492) were among males who have unprotected sex with males (MSM), both homosexual and bisexual.

Fifty-eight cases were caused by needle sharing among injecting drug users and two cases from mother to child transmission.

Of the 646 total cases, 96% were male, 51% of them aged 25 to 34 years and 28% aged 15 to 24 years old.

The highest number of newly-diagnosed cases for February 2015 were recorded in the National Capital Region with 262 cases or 41%.

The distribution of the rest of the cases is as follows:

Central Visayas (Region 7): 96 (15%)

Southern Tagalog (Region 4-A): 95 (15%)

Central Luzon (Region 3): 48 cases (7%)

Rest of the country: 115 cases (18%)

As of the time of reporting, 93% of the cases were still asymptomatic. This means that the patient is an HIV carrier without showing any symptoms.

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From January 1984 to February 2015, there were 23,709 confirmed HIV cases.

The first case of HIV infection in the Philippines was reported in 1984.

HIV is a retrovirus that causes infection that leads to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Its entrance into the body lowers the immunity or the ability to fight off disease.

There is currently no vaccine and cure for HIV. However, anti-retroviral medication may slow down the replication of the virus.

View full report here: DOH HIV report for February 2015

Confidential and free HIV testing

The DOH noted that HIV cases have been increasing at an alarming rate since 2007.

It cited the low testing rate among the country's key populations as one of the key factors of the rise in cases.

DOH said that most are scared to get tested due to the fear of public exposure of their HIV status and the persistence of the stigma attached to HIV testing, that is why DOH set up a confidential HIV testing and counselling.

Free HIV testing are available in all social hygiene clinics, particularly in high-risk areas such as the National Capital Region, Cebu, and Davao.

Health Secretary Janette Garin assured the public that the testing and results will be highly confidential. Hotlines are manned by trained volunteers of Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).

A 24/7 hotline with telephone numbers (02) 256-3472, (0915) 198-6978, (0922) 635-0270 is available for confidential inquiries and referrals.

May 11 to 15 is the National HIV Testing Week.

In observance of the 2015 International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, CNN Philippines' MedTalk looks at the progress made by medical experts in the prevention and treatment of HIV.

Catch MedTalk on Thursday (May 14) with Angel Jacob at 9:30 p.m.