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MANILA, Philippines - The number of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cases during the first half of the year has already surpassed the record for the whole 2010, the Department of Health (DOH) said Friday, underscoring the alarming rise in incidence of the virus that causes the dread disease AIDS.
The bulk of the spike was traced to a rise in male-to-male transmission and the sharing of needles among injecting drug users in Cebu province.
DOH Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag said for the month of June alone, 295 HIV cases were reported to the department, bringing to 1,600 the total number of cases in the first half of 2012.
“We are halfway now for the year and that’s already more than the 1,591 for the whole year of 2010,” Tayag told reporters. In 2011, HIV cases were 2,349.
This brings the total number of HIV cases in the country to 9,964 since 1984 when the DOH started reporting HIV/AIDS cases.
Men having sex with men make up 87 percent of HIV transmissions recorded in the first six months of the year, with men aged 20-29 making up most of the cases.
While MSM transmission has been the main mode of HIV transmission for a couple of years now, the DOH is particularly alarmed by a dramatic spike of cases involving injecting drug users (IDU) in Cebu City.
“What we’re alarmed about is that for June there were additional cases of injecting drug use or person who inject drugs,” Tayag said. HIV among drug users reached 120 during the first half of the year alone, he added. From 1984 to 2008, there were only 8 HIV cases among drug users.
“You will recall that in 2008 we only had 8 cases, now we have a total of 385 since 1984 when we started reporting HIV,” said Tayag, adding that all 120 HIV cases among IDUs this year were reported in Cebu City.
Tayag admitted that HIV monitoring among drug users in Cebu had stopped for awhile, discouraging people who were injecting drugs from submitting themselves for AIDS testing.
“In this period we stopped monitoring HIV among persons who inject drugs in that part of Cebu. For some time there was no fund so when we did a survey we saw that the number of HIV among drug users has increased,” he said.
Tayag said unlike other drug users in some parts of the country, injecting drug users in Cebu City use regulated medicines. The virus is spread as they share unclean and contaminated needles.
Tayag revealed that the government has started an HIV mapping, where parts of the country are labeled in terms of AIDS risk. Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao are tagged high risk.