P1b to fight HIV epidemic
Government’s budget to treat HIV/AIDS cases will breach the P1-billion mark next year, “the price the Philippines has to pay for reportedly having one of fast-growing HIV epidemics in the world,” a Senate leader said in a statement on Saturday.
Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph G. Recto said the budget for combating HIV/AIDS is pegged at P1.08 billion for 2016, almost double the amount allocated this year, and will fund treatment and testing of 35,000 confirmed and suspected cases.
Half, or P500 million, of the HIV/AIDS fund will be used to buy anti-retroviral drugs. The rest will go to test kits and reagents (P250 million), surveillance (P50 million), and local prevention programs (P200 million), Recto said citing a Senate briefer on public health spending for next year.
“I have been told that this budget might not be enough, if taken against the growing patient base,” Recto said.
Recto said this “budgetary item may have to be increased because other diseases like dengue are also included in the fund to combat infectious diseases.”
Despite global decline in new HIV infections, the Philippines is one of few countries posting monthly increases of new reported cases, Recto said.
There were 772 new cases in June, the highest on record, bringing to 26,456 the number of cases recorded in the national HIV registry since the tally was made in 1984.
“Many health experts who have appeared before congressional hearings are one in saying that this could just be the tip of the iceberg,” Recto said.
To illustrate the surge in HIV cases, Recto said there was only one reported case per day in 2008.
“June figures show that there are 22 per day now, four times the daily reported cases five years ago.”
At present, 10,628 Filipinos are currently enrolled and accessing medication in 22 treatment centers. “The increase in funding for 2016 will cover new entrants to the program and fund more testing,” Recto said.
“I think the Department of Health thrust is to focus its awareness campaign on younger demographic. Those infected are getting younger. The current median age of HIV infected Filipinos is 27,” Recto said.
Area-wise, NCR will receive bulk of the budget as it accounts for 11,648, or 44 percent of cases recorded from 1984 to 2015.
Southern Tagalog accounts for 3,496 cases or 13 percent, and third placer Region 7 has nine percent of cases, with 2,359, Recto said, citing official reports.
At present, under PhilHealth’s “case rate” system, the state health insurer reimburses HIV medication cost of up to P30,000 a year, or P7,500 per quarter.
These initiatives are part of government’s response to stem the HIV tide after the local World Health Organization office warned that the Philippines has one of the fastest growing HIV epidemics in the world, Recto said.
“Recent HIV scorecard says that we won’t be able to meet the HIV/AIDS target in the 2015 Millennium Development Goal of halting its spread and reversing it,” the senator.
But to the credit of this government, it is ramping up health spending, “increasing the DoH budget by P36.4 billion, or from this year’s P87.7 billion to P124.2 billion next year,” he pointed out.
“We will be spending P43.9 billion to provide health insurance to 15.4 million poor families, 2.2 million children will be immunized, 1.2 million seniors will be given flu and other vaccines. We will be spending P7 billion to hire 946 doctors, 15,727 nurses,” Recto said.
“We’re ramping up spending on hospital repair, purchase of equipment, modernization of medical centers, improvement of barangay health stations. For these, we will be spending almost P27 billion next year,” Recto said.