The Department of Health (DOH) urged the public to commemorate the Philippine International AIDS Candlelight Memorial thru virtual candlelight ceremonies.
Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III also encouraged the public to light a candle in their homes and post on social media in support of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevention and treatment advocacy. “The virtual candlelight ceremony is our way to remember those who have lost their lives to HIV-related complications, and to continue their fight and live beyond HIV and COVID-19,” Duque added.
This year’s theme, “We Remember, We Take Action, We Live Beyond HIV” honors those who dedicated their lives to helping people living with and affected by HIV, including our frontline health care workers, take bolder steps to control the further spread of HIV in the country, and live healthy as we adapt to new normal behaviors in the midst of COVID-19.
Duque stressed the agency’s LHIVE FREE campaign to raise awareness and break down stigma on HIV, by posting its “Get Tested, Get Treated” message alongside the candlelight memorial in all social media platforms.  The DOH chief reiterates that those who have a high risk for HIV should submit themselves to free HIV testing available at Social Hygiene Clinics, and for those who turn HIV positive will have free treatment accessible at treatment hubs and primary HIV care facilities across the country. He added that the government is keen on keeping everyone safe from COVID-19 without interrupting HIV services and other health programs.
Cognizant of the ongoing war against COVID-19, DOH reinforces its infection prevention and control measures to people living with HIV (PLHIV). PLHIVs must practice frequent handwashing, respiratory hygiene, physical distancing, and the appropriate use of personal protective equipment when necessary.
Data from DOH showed that as of December 2019, about 83% (74,807/90,400) of estimated HIV cases are diagnosed and 61% (43,020 / 71,078) of all diagnosed PLHIV are on antiretroviral therapy. A total of 3,730 deaths were reported from January 1984-December 2020.
From 1991 to present, males comprised 94% of all diagnosed cases in the Philippines. The predominant age group among those diagnosed is 25-34 years old, starting from 2006 up to the present. The proportion of HIV positive cases in the 15 to 24-year age group nearly doubled in the past ten years, from 17% in 2000-2009 to 30% in 2010-2019.