The Infectious Disease Tight Spot

It’s quite discomforting that despite the advances in antimicrobial therapy, infections in the form of pneumonia and other respiratory tract infections and all forms of tuberculosis are still among the leading causes of deaths in the Philippines.

Adding to the discomfort is another tight spot in the battle against infectious diseases—the alarming increase in the incidence of HIV in the country. Statistics from the Department of Health (DOH) indicates that although the world trend for new HIV cases appears to be going down because of intensive public health education and other preventive measures, a 3,147-percent increase in new cases was noted in the Philippines over a 10-year period from 2007 to 2017.

Earlier this year, the DOH reported that more than 11,000 new cases were diagnosed last year. Compare that to the 342 cases diagnosed for the whole year of 2007, and we can imagine how grave the situation is. From a previous one to two new cases being diagnosed daily, the number has surged to 31 new cases daily as of June this year.

In marked contrast, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that there is an appreciable decline in new HIV cases diagnosed worldwide—from 2.1 million in 2015 to 1.8 million in 2016.

Although our actual number of diagnosed cases is still small compared to that of other countries like Thailand, our government should take a hard look at the alarming statistics on new HIV cases in the country, and make a serious and willful effort to curb this looming disaster of epidemic proportions. Even President Duterte should realize that it doesn’t help when he cracks jokes that using condom “is not satisfying,” and likens it to eating candies without removing the plastic wrapper.

Infectious disease experts like Dr. Edsel Salvaña, a molecular epidemiologist who’s one of the few scientists in Asia doing advanced biomolecular or genomic studies to determine the mutation of the HIV, have sounded the alarm that unless we make some concrete actions soon enough, we may have drugresistant HIV/AIDS cases in our midst. (page 14)

It’s true that in terms of actual number—with our population of more than 100 million—our number of diagnosed HIV cases is still low. However, when one analyzes the rate of increase, experts on HIV/AIDS describe our rate of increase as going towards epidemic proportions. The United Nations report that the Philippines is one of eight countries in the Asia-Pacific region accounting for more than 90 percent of new HIV infections. Dr. Salvaña even describes the Philippines as an epicenter of a growing HIV epidemic in the region.

The Philippine Society of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (PSMID) therefore has big challenges to hurdle as it plays a major role in educating the public and guiding our health officials on the must-do-now interventions to curb a looming HIV epidemic, prevent other still prevalent infectious diseases in the country like dengue, malaria, rabies and tuberculosis. And most importantly, to convince doctors and other healthcare practitioners, as well as patients who have a propensity to selfmedicate, on the perils of antibiotic misuse or abuse. (page 10)

We dread the day when most microbes would become drugresistant already and would no longer respond even to potent antibiotics. May God forbid that to happen.


Nov 2018 Health and Lifestyle

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