The abbreviation “HIV” refers as the “human immunodeficiency virus”, the virus that causes AIDS or “acquired immunodeficiency syndrome” if not treated.
The virus attacks the body’s immune system, specifically, the CD4 cells often called T cells, which help the immune system fight off infections. If untreated, HIV reduces the number of CD4 cells (T cells) in the body, making the person more likely to get other infections or infection-related cancers.[i]
How can we be infected by HIV/AIDS?
Anyone can be infected with the disease, men and women can spread or carrier of HIV. You can be HIV infects when an infected person body fluid gets into your blood. The most common cases associated in the mode of transmission was male-to-male sexual contact, unprotected sex with an infected person, sharing of needles, mother to child transmission and through blood transfusion from an infected person.
In the Philippines, the first case of HIV infection reported in 1984. To date the Philippines considered one of the lowest rates of infections, however, it has one of the fastest-growing numbers of cases worldwide with a growth of 25%, from 2001 to 2009 [ii]
In the DOH AIDS Registry, the Philippines reported 56,275 cumulative cases since 1984 as of June 2018. From 2010 to 2015, 22,726 of cases were men with a median age of 28 years and 12,616 in the 24-34 age group.
The infection rate among men having sex with men has multiplied 10 times from 2010 to 2015. The Department of Health reported in November 2015, that the rate of prevalence has surpassed 5%, the UN’s definition of concentrated epidemic, in eight cities Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Puerto Princesa, Davao, Quezon City, Parañaque and Makati, with Cebu reaching 14%.[iii]
As per HIV/AIDS & ART REGISTRY OF THE PHILIPPINES, reported deaths as of February 2019 among with HIV were 59 due to any cause among people with HIV 95% of whom are male. All cases reported having acquired the infection through sexual contact.
Know your Status!
The best way to know if we have the disease is to be tested. Everyone should be tested even all pregnant women. Knowing our status helps us with our sexual health.
There are currently around 100 Department of Health (DOH) designated HIV treatment hubs and primary HIV care facilities all around the country. You can access the list of treatment hubs as listed in the report of the HIV/AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines [HARP] or download the SAFELY mobile application to search for the nearest clinic from your location. There are hundreds of Community-Based Screening (CBS) Motivators, individuals who are trained to conduct HIV screenings outside testing facilities, deployed all around the country to make HIV testing more accessible. It is advisable to get tested regularly depending on how active you are sexually. [iv]
It is important to know what the symptoms of HIV transmission are. Generally, HIV symptoms arise within one to two months after transmission. Accordingly, it may arise soon as two weeks of exposure some people may not experience early symptoms after they have contracted HIV. Remember that these early symptoms may be associated with common illness. Even you have not seen any signs of symptoms this does not mean that the virus is gone. HIV is a manageable illness but if left untreated it can progress to stage 3 even you have not seen signs of symptoms.
Early symptoms of HIV
The early signs of HIV may appear as symptoms similar to those caused by the flu. These can include:
- swollen lymph nodes
- sore throat
- muscle and joint pain
- ulcers in the mouth
- ulcers on the genitals
- night sweats
Symptoms of AIDS
Symptoms that indicate HIV may have progressed to stage 3 include:
- high fevers
- chills and night sweats
- breathing problems and persistent coughing
- severe weight loss
- white spots in the mouth
- genital sores
- regular fatigue
- memory problems
Phases of HIV
Acute or primary HIV infection or acute retroviral syndrome is the first stage of HIV. At this stage, most people experience common flu-like that may be hard to distinguish from a gastrointestinal or respiratory infection. The next phase is the clinical latency stage. The virus becomes less active, though it’s still in the body. During this stage, people experience no symptoms while the viral infection progresses at very low levels. This period of latency can last a decade or longer. Many people show no symptoms of HIV during this entire 10-year period. The final phase of HIV is stage 3. During this phase, the immune system is severely damaged and is vulnerable to infections. Once HIV progresses into stage 3, symptoms associated with infections may become apparent.
Republic Act 8504 Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998
An Act Promulgating Policies And Prescribing Measures For The Prevention And Control Of HIV/AIDS In The Philippines, Instituting A Nationwide HIV/AIDS Program, Establishing A Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Monitoring System, Strengthening The Philippine National Aids Council, And For Other Purposes. [v]
Likewise, it is mandatory for all private company to have an HIV/AIDS policy and implement a workplace program in accordance with RA 8504.