Press Release | 16 May 2021
The Department of Health (DOH) today joined the world in the observance of the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial Day, which commemorates the lives of those who have died due to AIDS-related complications. Aligned with this year’s theme “We Remember, We Take Action, We Live Beyond HIV”, which aims to increase public awareness on HIV and AIDS, the DOH reaffirmed its commitment to address the HIV epidemic and break the stigma surrounding HIV.
“Today we join the rest of the world in honoring the lives of people who have succumbed to AIDS and in celebrating those who have dedicated their lives to help increase HIV awareness and address HIV-related stigma and discrimination,” Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said. “As we commemorate the AIDS Candlelight Memorial Day, we reaffirm our commitment to ensure continuous access to HIV services and strengthen our efforts to control and eventually reverse the HIV epidemic,” Sec. Duque added.
The COVID-19 pandemic challenged the uptake of HIV services. According to DOH data as of December 2020, HIV testing decreased by 61% and treatment initiation was reduced by 28% in 2020. Moreover, only 70% of the estimated 111,400 Filipinos who are living with HIV in 2020 are aware of their status, while only 61% are on life-saving antiretroviral therapy. A total of 4,574 deaths have been reported since 1984 up to 2020.
With the pandemic being a major deterrent to accessibility, the DOH and partners from local government units through its Social Hygiene Clinics, public and private HIV treatment facilities, community-based organizations (CBOs), and advocacy groups are working together to ensure continuous provision of HIV prevention, testing, treatment, care and support services for key populations with primary focus on ensuring continued support for people living with HIV.
In line with ensuring continuous provision of HIV services, the DOH encouraged key populations and all interested individuals to get tested and know their status, emphasizing that HIV testing is free in Social Hygiene Clinics or Reproductive Health and Wellness Centers and CBO-run community centers.
The Department further called on people living with HIV (PLHIV) to access free HIV treatment and other services and adhere to the treatment regimen. “HIV is not a death sentence. With access to the right information and life-saving treatment, HIV can be managed and those afflicted with the disease can lead happy, healthy, and normal lives. To our PLHIV, help is always available. We urge you to access our free services and we assure you that support will continue even amid the COVID-19 pandemic. You do not have to go through this alone; do not hesitate to contact your health care providers for any concern, especially in these trying times,” Sec. Duque said.
As part of the priority group A3, DOH also encourages PLHIV to seek medical clearance prior to vaccination and get vaccinated once cleared by their attending physician.
List of HIV treatment facilities can be accessed through https://bit.ly/hivtxhubs while the DOH website and hotline at (02) 8651-7800 and the Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC) facebook page (@pnacph) can be accessed to obtain additional HIV-related information.