via Diane Querrer
“The country’s proverbial gold medal for HIV AIDS is concrete proof that existing strategies, programs and interventions are clearly not effective in addressing the epidemic. Young Filipinos are very vulnerable. We have to get our act together and act together.”
This was the reaction of Commissioner Perci Cendaña, Chairperson of the Committee on Social Inclusion and Equity of the National Youth Commission (NYC), to a report by UNAIDS that ranked the Philippines with the highest increase of new HIV incidence in the past six years. According to the report, while the annual number of new HIV infections in Asia and the Pacific has declined 13% from 2010 to 2016, there was a 141% increase in the Philippines over the same period.
The NYC pointed out that majority of HIV infections in the Philippines are among young people. “The face of the HIV epidemic in the country has changed in the last five years, it is now the face of a young person. Data show that more than half of new infections are among young people 15 to 24 years old.”
The key to responding to the HIV epidemic according to NYC is to focus and invest aggressively in young people. “What we have been doing are not working as evidenced by the continuing spike in infections. We have to be bolder and more creative in our response. We have to empower young people to embrace health seeking behavior.
The NYC is pushing for the full implementation of comprehensive sexuality education as one of the means of educating the youth on HIV prevention and protection. The agency is also advocating for allowing minors to get tested for HIV and to avail of treatment and care without the need for parental consent.
“We have to give young people access to protection. Education and consciousness-raising will not be effective without access to condoms. We have to overcome bias and prejudice and focus on the solution.” The NYC stressed that correct and consistent condom use is most effective in preventing HIV transmission among sexually active young people.
The NYC called on all stakeholders to work together to eliminate stigma on the infection and against people living with HIV and key populations. “Interventions will only be effective in climate free from stigma and discrimination.” (NYC-PR)