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Philippines reports rise in HIV-AIDS infections

MANILA, November 25, 2010 (AFP) – The Philippines on Thursday reported a sharp jump in HIV-AIDS cases which runs against a global trend of declining infection rates, with young homosexual men most at risk.

There were 1,305 confirmed new HIV infections in first 10 months of the year, compared with 835 for the whole of 2009, the health ministry said.

Sex between men accounted for nearly 80 percent of all cases this year, and more than half of those infected were aged between 20 and 29.

“From 2007 there has been a shift in the predominant trend of sexual transmission from heterosexual contact to males having sex with males,” a health ministry report said.

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) attacks the human body’s immune system, rendering it defenceless against infections and leading to AIDS.

Teresita Marie Bagasao, country coordinator of the UNAIDS programme, said that among all countries in Asia, only the Philippines and Bangladesh were now reporting increases in cases, with others stable or decreasing.

The United Nations also reported Tuesday that the number of new cases of HIV/AIDS around the world had dropped by about one-fifth over the past decade.

“They (Philippine authorities) need to actually address the factors which lead to infections,” Bagasao told AFP.

“Providing treatment can only be sustainable if there is a very strong and comprehensive programme of preventing further infections.”

She said the government needs to educate those at high risk, and provide them with condoms.

Apart from sexual contact, 11 percent of all new Philippine HIV cases were transmitted through needle-sharing by injecting drug users, and one percent were transmitted by a mother to her baby.

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