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Eliminating HIV/AIDS transmission and ensuring health equity for Quezoñians

By Nimfa Estrellado At the turn-over ceremony of the Cepheid GeneXpert Viral Load Machine held at the public hospital on September 11, led b...

By Nimfa Estrellado

Eliminating HIV/AIDS transmission and ensuring health equity for Quezoñians
At the turn-over ceremony of the Cepheid GeneXpert Viral Load Machine held at the public hospital on September 11, led by Governor Doctor Angelina "Helen" Tan, QMC Chief of Hospital Dr. Jeff Villanueva, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Kristin Villaseor, PROTECTS Program Area Regional Coordinator Argiel Limon, and Pilipinas Shell Foundation Inc. (PSFI) under the PROTECTS Project Program. (Photo from Quezon PIO)

LUCENA CITY - The provincial government of Quezon is delivering on its commitment to eliminate human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) transmission in the province and address the health inequities faced by its residents. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

An additional machine, the Cepheid GeneXpert Viral Load Machine, has been procured to expand HIV/AIDS testing and diagnosis services, allowing for increased access to early detection and treatment for individuals living with HIV/AIDS. Now healthcare professionals can monitor patient virus loads and modify treatment programs as necessary thanks to this machine's precise and prompt results.

On September 11, Pilipinas Shell Foundation Inc. (PSFI) under the PROTECTS Project Program installed the machine at Quezon Medical Center (QMC), during the turn-over ceremony that was conducted at the public hospital led by Governor Doctor Angelina "Helen" Tan together with QMC Chief of Hospital Dr. Jeff Villanueva, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Kristin Villaseñor and PROTECTS Program Area Regional Coordinator Argiel Limon.

Tan expressed gratitude to the Philippine Shell Foundation, Inc. PROTECTS for their collaboration and support in improving the country's HIV diagnosis capacity. This partnership aims to strengthen the healthcare system's capacity to provide comprehensive HIV care and support services to the residents of Quezon.

The installation of the Cepheid GeneXpert Viral Load Machine at QMC is a significant step towards achieving the government's goal of eliminating HIV transmission and improving healthcare outcomes in the province.

The equipment that is said to be worth 1.1 million pesos will greatly enhance the diagnostic capabilities of QMC, allowing for more accurate and timely monitoring of HIV viral load levels. This will enable healthcare providers to make informed decisions regarding treatment plans and ensure that individuals living with HIV receive the appropriate care they need to manage their condition effectively.

The Governor Tan believes that the number of HIV patients in the country continues to increase and that many of them are undiagnosed, which poses a significant public health concern. By investing in QMC and improving diagnostic capabilities, the government can take proactive measures to identify and support these undiagnosed individuals, ultimately reducing the spread of HIV and improving overall healthcare outcomes in the country.

The governor assured that the provincial government is committed to allocating resources and funding towards implementing QMC and improving diagnostic capabilities. This commitment reflects the government's dedication to addressing the growing HIV epidemic and ensuring that all individuals have access to timely and accurate diagnosis, treatment, and support services.

According to HIV/AIDS and Art Registry of the Philippines reports, as of March 2023, Calabarzon (Region 4A) ranks 2nd in the number of diagnosed HIV cases in the Philippines with 17,717.

Among the other regions with the highest number of cases are the National Capital Region (NCR) with 27,588 diagnosed cases and Central Luzon (Region 3) with 11,108 diagnosed cases.

The same three regions in the country have consistently reported the highest number of new cases of HIV for the past 5–6 years. Looking at the trend, the number of cases has drastically increased over the years. In 2013, there were only 13 cases diagnosed per day across the country, while in 2018, it ballooned to 31 cases per day. The number rose to 41 cases per day in 2022, and in 2023, a staggering 54 cases were reportedly diagnosed daily.

Data from the Epidemiology Bureau of the Department of Health (DOH) and the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (RESU)-9 show the comparative data of the country's national and regional diagnosis and treatment coverages. The entire Philippines had achieved 59% of its diagnosis coverage and 62% of its treatment coverage.

Meanwhile, an HIV self-test kit from the DOH is available in the Rural Health Units (RHU) and other selected health facilities across the country. This initiative aims to increase accessibility and encourage individuals to take control of their own HIV testing, ultimately contributing to early detection and prompt treatment initiation.

In the past, when an HIV test result was reactive, the blood sample had to be sent to Manila for testing, which resulted in a three-month waiting period for the region to receive the results. Unfortunately, by the time clients received their results, they had either already passed away or had potentially transmitted the virus to others.

Today, with the availability of the HIV self-test kit in RHUs, individuals can receive their test results within minutes. This allows for immediate access to treatment and prevention services, reducing the risk of further transmission and improving overall health outcomes in the region.

The Department of Health (DOH) continues to prioritize the distribution of HIV self-test kits in RHUs to ensure that individuals have convenient and timely access to testing.

They advise individuals to get tested regularly, especially if they engage in high-risk behaviors or have multiple sexual partners. Regular testing can help detect HIV early and prevent the spread of the virus to others.

Additionally, DOH stated that people can protect themselves and their partners from HIV infection by being knowledgeable about HIV prevention strategies and taking preventative actions, such as using condoms regularly and engaging in safe sex. (with reports from DOH)

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