MANILA – The Philippines’ Department of Health said on Tuesday that the country had the fastest HIV infection growth rate in Asia, with the number of infected people having doubled in the last six years and 29 new infections every day.
In a press conference Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial underlined the need to promote abstinence as well as the use of protection to counter the HIV epidemic in the Philippines, a country with strong Catholic roots where sex education continues to be taboo in most households and educational institutions.
“The Philippines has become the country with the fastest growing HIV epidemic in Asia and the Pacific, and has become one of 8 countries that account for more than 85 percent of new HIV infections in the region,” Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said in Manila.
According to a recent report by UNAIDS, the number of HIV cases and deaths due to AIDS worldwide have gone down over the last decade.
The report says that AIDS caused more than a million deaths worldwide in 2016, down from the 1.9 million deaths recorded in 2015.
However, in the Philippines the number of people carrying HIV has jumped from 4,300 in 2010 to 10,500 in 2016.
According to the report, 85 percent of the new HIV infections among Filipinos were among men who have sex with men and two thirds of cases were among people aged between 16-24.
Earlier this year, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the implementation of a sex education program in high schools, which included the promotion of contraceptive measures and distribution of condoms.
However, pressure from the Catholic Church, local leaders and conservative groups have derailed the plan, despite support from progressive sections and support groups for HIV-AIDS patients.