Action Needed - Youth awareness of HIV/AIDS drops to an all-time low
by Kevin de Vera
November 7, 2022
We have always been worried about the dire sexual and reproductive health situation of young people. In the past decade, we've seen various efforts to mainstream the discussions about HIV/AIDS in Bicol Region. The government, through its policies and programs, together with CBOs and CSOs coming together to maximize campaigns to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS as a health and social concern.
However, the HIV situation based in the DOH-HARP September 2022 Report shows that there is so much work that needs to be done:
A total of 11.476 new HIV cases from January to September 2022 alone
In September alone, 1 out of 3 new cases are young people 15-24 years old (418 new cases)
In September, there were a total of 75 new cases from the adolescent population aged 19 and below.
In 2020 alone, according to the Department of Health, there were a total of 115,100 people living with HIV in the country, and 90% of new infections were recorded among young males who have sex with males.
In addition, the Young Adults Fertility Survey 2021 (YAFS5), the biggest study on young people's health and well-being, has revealed that since 1994, the percentage of Filipino youth who are aware of HIV and AIDS has declined to its lowest level in the recent survey done in 2021. Is this a serious problem? Definitely, it is for the following reasons:
Based on the YAFS5 done in 2021, 76% of young people aged 15-24 have heard of HIV/AIDS, compared to the 1994 survey which young people's awareness stood at 95%.
While we now have more knowledge about HIV/AIDS as a health and social concern compared to that time in 1994, it is alarming that from the 1994 survey, the decline in young people's awareness continued to drop - from the 1994 survey at 95%, 2002 survey at 94%, 2013 survey at 83%, and in most recent 2021 survey 76%.
The low knowledge of young people about HIV/AIDS can slow down our progress in advancing our efforts to curb the rate of new HIV infection. It is necessary for all actors on this issue to revisit where we are lacking and see if our reach does have an impact on the young population. It is high time to further advance advocacy work to demand local government units to invest in young people's sexual and reproductive health through policies and programs which can create adolescent and youth-friendly and safe spaces to talk about sex, sexuality, and HIV/AIDS. It is also important for our school officials and local education board to invest in our teachers-training in teaching Comprehensive Sexuality Education - Adolescent Reproductive Health.
The Philippines remains to be among the few countries in the world with a high rate of new HIV cases. Likewise, the Philippines is with the fastest-growing HIV epidemic in the Asia-Pacific Region. "Should the trend persist, the number of HIV cases is estimated to reach over 330,000 by 2030," according to Dr. Marie Kabamalan (Ph.D.), a professor at the UP Population Institute and YAFS5 project coordinator.
We need to take action now!