Monday, December 9, 2013

The rise of HIV/AIDS cases in the Philippines

The statistics provided by Dr. Eric Tayag from last week’s public forum on HIV/AIDs was truly shocking. In his presentation, he informed the crowd that there is a steady rise of new HIV cases in the Philippines, while developed countries are experiencing a decrease in new HIV cases. While comparing our country to others may seem like another bad case of a false analogy; it still paints a picture of the disparity between developing countries like ours to other nations.

The prevalence of HIV/AIDS also reflects other social problems such as drug use, prostitution, poverty and lack of information on safe sex. Dr Tayag noted how a community in Cebu experience an outbreak from people sharing needles for their drug use.  Another at-risk group would be men who have sex with men. While such act isn’t for us to judge, sodomy is generally frowned upon by society, along with homosexuality. As such, most men are forced to comply with such kinds of risky behaviour to attain their needs. Human trafficking and prostitution all rooted from poverty, introduced women (or men) to the risks of sexually transmitted diseases. The lack of information and awareness to HIV or AIDS only worsens the problem. The unavailability of sex education, especially for the youth and other key groups, has left them ignorant to cases such as AIDS. Since the onset of its symptoms and infection often take years before showing, it is most likely for people to ignore and forget about it; and eventually spreading the disease unbeknownst to them.

Moreover, those who fit under the targeted at-risk groups are afraid to get tested because of the social stigma related to it. More often than not, they also get profiled into stereotypes and fear being ostracized. Similarly, those affected by the disease often get discriminated. This then shows that aside from containing and eliminating the disease, it is also important to address the social issues related to it. Like any other person suffering from an illness, HIV positive or people living with AIDS must still be treated with respect. Instead of giving them another reason to be depressed about, it would be better for them if we give them support and hope. Currently, the government is trying its best to help those with HIV/AIDS by providing their needed treatment as part of their healthcare. Lots of NGOs and social groups, like Take the Test and ACHIEVE, have formed to encourage HIV testing and social awareness.

Like most ailments, prevention is the key to help lower and eventually eliminate HIV/AIDS cases.  However, the challenge isn’t just exclusive to the government nor to those who simply care, rather it concerns every one of us. Given how our generation were born with better access to information and various kinds of technology, in my opinion we should be able to harness them in help in the campaign for AIDS awareness. Even simple acts such as filtering and sharing Facebook posts which provide wrong information, to providing support by liking advocacy-based groups, can help change people’s perception to said disease.

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