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Philippines Experiencing Increasing Number Of New HIV Cases; Leaders Say Country Should Reconsider Policies

“At a time when many countries are seeing their HIV infection rates level off or decline,” health officials in the Philippines “have seen an unexpected surge in cases in the past several years, with a more than five-fold increase between 2007 and 2011, with 2,349 new cases last year,” the Wall Street Journal’s “Southeast Asia Real Time” blog reports, noting, “The total number of cases as of April 2012 is 9,396, compared to just 3,061 in 2007.” The blog continues, “Doctors are still trying to determine the cause of the unexpected increase. Either way, domestic and international HIV experts have been warning for a while that the Philippines has all the necessary ingredients for an HIV epidemic,” including low condom use, communities where multiple sexual partners or sex workers are widespread, and workers who travel overseas, “often in jobs or in regions that have relatively high rates of infection.”

“Some leaders in the Philippines say the country needs to rethink its policies to confront the rising incidence of the disease,” the blog writes, adding, “Despite the jump in cases, public spending on HIV prevention, treatment, care and support has dwindled from 81 million Philippine pesos ($1.9 million) in 2009 to 65 million pesos ($1.6 million) in 2011.” According to the blog, “Congresswoman Janette Garin, a senior deputy majority leader, has authored a new HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment bill” that “proposes new funding of 400 million Philippine pesos ($9.6 million) for public awareness campaigns, condom procurement and other outreach.” However, it is unclear whether the bill will pass or how long it would take to implement if it does, the blog notes (Cuneta, 7/5).