Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Health authorities meet against AIDS

Philstar, Philippines
By Jessica Ann R. Pareja

Following reports of increasing HIV cases in the country, health authorities met yesterday to discuss ways to prevent the disease.

Dr. Jose Gerard Belimac, manager of National AIDS and STI Prevention and Control Program (NASPC) of the National Center for Disease Prevention and Control, said that time will come that patients will develop resistance to antiretroviral drugs, which is currently the most common and available medication for HIV patients.

Antiretroviral drugs (ARD), also known as antiretroviral treatment (ART), work to suppress the multiplication of the virus.

“The use of combination antiretroviral therapy has significantly improved the survival of people with HIV and AIDS (Acquired immune deficiency syndrome). The evolution of drug resistant subpopulation of HIV can significantly limit the ability of ART to suppress viral replication. Resistance to Antiretroviral drugs is the most important cause of treatment failure,” NASPC said.

Belimac said that so far, there are no reports of resistance to ARD but if this happens, the more health authorities will have a hard time solving the problem on HIV infection

“There is still no cure for the disease and even the treatment is lifelong for HIV patients. If they develop resistance to the treatment, it will increase the fatality in a short span of time,” Belimac said.

Belimac said that in 2000, one HIV case is reported every three days but in 2009, two new cases are already reported in a day.

He said that so far, the country is capable of providing treatment available to 13 treatment hubs all over the country. In Cebu, there is only one treatment hub at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center.

“The problem is more on social issues of the patients. Sometimes patients do not come back for follow-ups. If there is no constant follow-up, their condition may be upgraded to a higher regimen which will already be costly for them,” Belimac said.

He said that for first line regimen or the early stage of HIV, treatment is given for free by DOH to those who are diagnosed in any of the 13 treatment hubs.

The budget per patient per month is P10,000 for the ART which is being implemented by DOH since 2004.

Belimac said that budget comes from donations from foreign donors and from the DOH allocation for HIV. He reported that last year, DOH spent P6 million for the treatment of HIV patients.

Belimac urged the public that those vulnerable to the disease better have themselves diagnosed early for early treatment and prevention.

“Because symptoms will not show up until after 10 years when the disease is already in its acute stage,” she said.

Belimac said that those vulnerable to HIV are individuals who had multiple sex partners and those who have used prohibited drugs.

Copyright © 2009. Philstar

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