In a bid to address the growing number of young Filipinos getting the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), the Department of Health (DOH) is now mulling at making condoms available even in school clinics.
In a media conference in Paranaque City for the observance of the World AIDS Day 2016, DOH Secretary Paulyn Ubial disclosed that they are planning to distribute condoms in schools, specifically in school clinics, in order to help inform students on HIV/AIDS.
“As soon as we thresh out the strategy with the Department of Education (DepEd), we can distribute after providing them proper counseling. Of course, we also have to prepare the school authorities, teachers, principals, healthcare providers,” said Ubial.
Furthermore, the DOH said it is also considering heeding the call of the World Health Organization (WHO) of making HIV self-testing kits available to the public.
Ubial said they want to make HIV self-test kits available to individuals in places where they can get the adequate counseling, and not in drug stores.
“The test kits will not be available in the drug store because we will need counseling before one gets tested. The danger in not getting counseling is they might not know what to do if the result is positive. One of the things we do not want to happen is an increase in suicide rate or increase in depression or increase in hiding instead of them coming out and getting treatment,” said the DOH Chief.
In addition, Ubial said they are hoping to register HIV self-test kits at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as soon as possible.
According to the DOH head, the “out-of-the-box” measures are already necessary considering the continued rise in the number of HIV cases in the country.
“The DOH sounds the alarm on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country. It is increasing every day,” Ubial said.
“We call on the community: We have to develop a business unusual strategy, not the business as usual. This means it will not just be in health centers at hospitals. It is really going down to the communities, to the households, involving the parents, the education sector, the teachers, and involving the community,” the official added.
She pointed how there has been a sharp rise in the number of cases in the overall population as well as among the youth beginning in 2011.
“Maybe it is because of the environment, their access to information, to social media, and the tri-media. The society is more open so the youth are experimenting. They connect with other people, and they get faster information. I think that is one of the things we have also to contend with,” said Ubial.
Data shows that since 1984 until October 2016, there are a total of 38,114 HIV cases, with 32,099 tallied only from 2011 to 2016.
As for the youth or those aged 15-24 years old, there are a total of 10,279 HIV cases since 1984, of which 9,066 recorded from 2011 only.
The World AIDS Day is observed globally every December 1.