By Ferdinand Patinio

Department of Health Undersecretary Eric Tayag (PNA photo by Joan Bondoc)

MANILA – Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cases in the country would reach at least 500,000 over the next six years, with men comprising most of the patients, the Department of Health (DOH) said Saturday.

DOH Undersecretary Eric Tayag said from six cases a day, HIV cases in the country have increased to 50 new cases daily.

Ang tantiya po namin ay nasa 185,000 may HIV at sa mga ilang taon pa ay baka umabot tayo ng kalahating milyon (By our estimate, there are 185,000 Filipinos infected with HIV and they may reach 500,000) in 2030,” he said at the Saturday News Forum in Quezon City.

Tayag lamented that Filipinos’ test rate for HIV is low at 40 percent, way below their 90-90-90 goal — 90 percent at risk should be tested, 90 percent must be undergoing treatment, and 90 percent should achieve good results.

May kampanya kami para huwag matakot at maging regular na lang itong pagpapa-testing (We do campaigns so people won’t be afraid to get tested regularly,” he said.

He said cases are rising among the 15-24 age bracket but the majority are still in the 25-34 group.

He said health officials are also monitoring pregnant overseas Filipino workers and those injecting medicines, even if legally prescribed, because of possible contaminated needles.

Gusto natin malaman baka mamaya si baby pala ay na-infect. Hindi alam mismo nung buntis na siya pala ay may HIV at ma-isalin doon sa baby (We want to know if the baby is safe because the mother herself may not know she is infected and unknowingly infect the baby),” Tayag said.

HIV attacks the body’s immune system and can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) if not immediately treated.

It can be passed on through sexual contact, use of shared needles, and contact with infected blood; and by parent to child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding.

The Private Sector Advisory Council’s Health Sector Group reported to President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. in a meeting at Malacañan Palace in Manila in February that a pharmaceutical firm has expressed willingness to manufacture HIV medicines.

HIV testing is also included in the DOH program Bagong Urban Care and Ambulatory Service (BUCAS) centers to serve the poorest sector.

By 2028, the DOH said it hopes to open 28 BUCAS centers. (PNA)