Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health, expressed his concern over the reported alarming increase in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cases in the Philippines, particularly among teenagers.

Responding to questions about the increasing HIV infections in an interview after aiding fire victims in Davao City on Friday, November 17, Go emphasized the need for a comprehensive and multi-disciplinary approach to tackle this growing health crisis.

“Unang-una, nakakabahala ito. Tumataas na naman ang bilang ng kaso ng HIV cases. Bilang chairman po ng Committee on Health ay tututukan natin ito,” stated Go.

He highlighted the importance of educating the youth about sex, teenage pregnancy, illegal drugs, and alcoholism as a primary step in addressing this issue.

Go underscored the role of discipline and awareness in combating the spread of HIV.

“Disiplina talaga ang kailangan dito. Eto ‘yung bagay na masyadong tinatago ng kahit sinuman. Importante dito ‘yung education campaign… ‘wag lang po basta-basta. Dapat multi-disciplinary ang ating approach dito,” he added.

The senator pointed out the necessity of treating HIV as both a health and behavioral concern. He noted that Department of Health (DOH) programs, including hospitals and Regional Specialty Centers focusing on infectious diseases, play a crucial role.

Go also principally sponsored and is one of the authors of Republic Act 11959, also known as the Regional Specialty Centers Act, which was signed into law by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., on August 24.

The law mandates the establishment of regional specialty centers within existing DOH regional hospitals. It stands as a testament to the commitment of the government to uplift the nation’s health infrastructure.

“Matagal na po ito. Dito papasok ang mga programa ng DOH kasama na diyan ang ating mga hospitals, HIV-related katulad ng AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome), kasama diyan ang mga Regional Specialty Centers, lalo na po ‘yung mga infectious diseases sa mga specialty centers natin. Diyan po sila makakatulong,” Go explained.

Additionally, Go discussed the critical role of Malasakit Centers in providing assistance to those affected by HIV. He encouraged victims to seek help from these centers.

“Pati Malasakit Center makakatulong din po dito. Pwede naman silang lumapit humingi ng tulong pag sila po ay victim,” he stated.

Addressing the issue as a behavioral matter, Go stressed the importance of interventions at schools, health centers, and even within households. He also mentioned the Super Health Centers as a medium type of polyclinic where people, especially those in remote areas, can access government healthcare packages, including those for HIV prevention.

Super Health Centers are designed to focus on primary care, consultation, and early detection, further strengthening the healthcare sector in the country, especially in grassroots communities.

Free consultations would be handled by municipal health offices, local government units, and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) through its Konsulta program.

“Pwede diyan ang konsulta package ng gobyerno. Diyan po magpapakonsulta ang mga kababayan natin lalong-lalo na ‘yung mga nasa malalayong lugar. Lapitan lang nila ang mga Super Health Center, merong Konsulta package ang PhilHealth,” said Go.

“Diyan po sila matutulungan, pati na rin dito sa HIV prevention na ating ipinaglalaban parati. Lapitan nyo lang po ‘yung pinakamalapit na Super Health Center at ‘yung mga specialty centers po sa mga DOH hospitals,” he added.

This multi-faceted strategy comes in the wake of alarming statistics revealed by Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa, who reported a near doubling of HIV cases this year, with almost half involving teenagers. The introduction of a more infectious HIV subvariant, as noted by infectious diseases specialist Dr. Edsel Salvaña, has contributed to this surge.

The rapid growth in HIV cases was discussed in a recent meeting between Herbosa and Vice President Sara Duterte, focusing on health literacy interventions.

According to the United Nations, the Philippines has one of the fastest-growing HIV epidemics globally, dating back to 1984. DOH declared the epidemic a national emergency in 2017 due to the rapid rise in infections.#