WHO: High-risk population not getting enough HIV services

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

THE World Health Organization (WHO) has lamented the continued absence of adequate services to people who have high chances of getting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

In a statement, the WHO said that the most at risk population (MARP) has been found to have the least access to HIV prevention, testing and treatment services.

The MARP includes men who have sex with men, people in prison, people who inject drugs, sex workers, and transgender people.

“In many countries they are left out of national HIV plans, and discriminatory laws and policies are major barriers to access,” the organization said.

“Sex workers and their clients have husbands, wives and partners. Some inject drugs. Many have children. Failure to provide services to the people who are at greatest risk of HIV jeopardizes further progress against the global epidemic and threatens the health and well being of individuals, their families and the broader community,” the statement added.

The WHO is set to conduct an International Aids conference in Melbourne, Australia, which will start on July 20, to tackle the issue.

In the confab, the WHO is expected to formally unveil the new guidelines on HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care for key populations.

The WHO said it will introduce the anti-retroviral (ARV) medicines as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to men-having-sex-with-men (MSM) as a way of preventing HIV infection, aside from the use of condoms.

“Rates of HIV infection among men who have sex with men remain high almost everywhere and new prevention options are urgently needed,” it added.

The organization said the PrEP pill should be taken once a day by people who do not have HIV but are at risk of getting it.

“PrEP, when taken consistently, has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection in people who are at high risk by up to 92 percent. PrEP is much less effective if it is not taken consistently,” the WHO noted.

However, the Department of Health (DOH) said it is not yet prepared to follow the WHO plan.

DOH spokesman Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy said the DOH wants to study first if it will adopt the recommendation of the WHO on how to prevent HIV infection among MSM.

“We will look into it first and see if there are enough evidence to prove its effectivity and if it is feasible to us,” he said.

Lee Suy said the adoption of PrEPs would require the increase in the supply of ARV drugs in the country since the present quantity is meant for those already with HIV.

Based on the May 2014 Philippine HIV and AIDS Registry report, there are 6,704 people living with HIV in the country undergoing anti-retroviral therapy in 18 different treatment hubs in the country.

There are already 18,836 HIV cases recorded in the Philippines since 1984, including 1,724 that have progressed into full-blown AIDS cases. (HDT/Sunnex)

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