November 23, 2023
MANILA – The number of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cases in the country has nearly doubled this year, with almost half of them involving teens, which could be attributed to a new strain of the virus, according to Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa.
Citing the latest figures, Herbosa said on Tuesday that HIV infections grew to about 50 new cases per day from last year’s average daily count of 22.
Younger people aged 15 to 24 are the most affected at 47 percent, he added.
“There’s a new subvariant that’s quite more infectious and this is the reason we’re finding this increase in cases,” he told reporters, citing infectious diseases specialist Dr. Edsel Salvana. “It’s been happening even before. We’re just detecting it [now] because we’re concentrated so much on COVID,” he said.
In 2022, a group of researchers led by Chris Wymant found that a new HIV variant called subtype B could cause a more severe infection and individuals hit by this strain may have “an average viral load about four times higher than usual,” according to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
Herbosa said on Monday that he had a meeting with Vice President Sara Duterte, who also heads the Department of Education, and that one of the topics they discussed was the rapidly growing number of HIV cases, specifically on the “interventions” to take regarding health literacy.
“We forged a stronger collaboration [and] convergence between … on the efforts we will put for adolescent health,” he said.
He added other health issues they tackled were teenage pregnancy, substance abuse, mental health, and nutrition.
The Philippines has one of the fastest-growing HIV epidemics in the world, dating back to 1984, UNAIDS said.
In 2017, the DOH declared the epidemic a national emergency because of the rapid rise of HIV cases.