The stigma surrounding the topic of sex, and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) is continuing to haunt Filipinos despite already having alternative means to learning about it. As much as there are activists fighting and pushing for proper implementation of sex education, there are still people who choose to be uninformed about these matters. Perhaps this is the reason why the Philippines is the leading country in the world that continues to have an increase in HIV cases. In a survey conducted by the Department of Health (DOH) in March 2016, we now have an average of 25 reported cases of HIV per day as compared to 2014’s 17 cases, with the highest cases coming from the National Capital Region (NCR).
As a contribution to help and prevent the spread of HIV in the Philippines, non-government organization and HIV prevention advocacy group LoveYourself Inc. has partnered with the Department of Health (DOH), World Health Organization (WHO), and the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) in bringing in a new HIV prevention method called the Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) under their #PrEPPilipinas Program which is slated for release during the first quarter of 2017.
PrEP is an HIV medicine made from the combination of tenofovir and emtricitabine — antiviral drugs that prevent the virus — which should be taken daily to lower the chances of contracting the virus. LoveYourself Inc. senior director Christopher Lagman emphasizes that “PrEP shouldn’t be taken as a replacement to current prevention measures, but as an option and another level of protection to avoid getting HIV.” The drug has a 99% prevention rate with no reported major side effects. And it is important to note that PrEP does not prevent other STDs including gonorrhea and syphilis.
Through this program, LoveYourself Inc. hopes to target the population that’s most vulnerable to the virus, particularly the LGBTQIA+ community. “We need to have more HIV prevention inventions since 50% of males-having-sex-with-males (MSM) do not use condoms,” Lagman adds.
Although there is no definite date for the arrival of the PrEP medicine (they’re looking at the first quarter of 2017), LoveYourself Inc. will be allowing 200 participants in the headquarters at Anglo-Shaw to avail of the program. These 200 people will undergo screening and will be given a holistic service approach. They will not only be provided with the medicine, but will also be provided with check-ups and counseling all year round. The group hopes that they will soon be able to accommodate more slots for those who are interested in using PrEP and branch out across the country.
Because of how safe and effective the PrEP medicine is, the #PrEPPilipinas Program may be what the Philippines needs to decrease the spread of HIV around the country. And with the program being paired with LoveYourself Inc.’s confidential counseling, this might just spark a change in behavior and urge more people to speak up about the virus.