Palace supports Recto’s call to sustain gov’t campaign against HIV-AIDS

MANILA, Oct. 11 (PNA) – Malacanang welcomed on Sunday the call of Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto to sustain the government’s campaign against human immunodeficiency virus-acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV-AIDS).

”We welcome the idea of Senator (Ralph) Recto of providing additional funds for HIV or sustain the fight against HIV-AIDS threat in our country,” Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a Radyo ng Bayan interview.

”The thrust of the program currently is on encouraging the high-risk population to have themselves tested; therefore, more cases are likely to be diagnosed,” he added.

Coloma said the government continuously provides support and medical assistance for the people affected by the deadly disease.

”It is being given high priority by the Department of Health,” Coloma said.

Recto, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, said the government budget to treat HIV/AIDS cases will breach the PhP 1 billion mark next year or more than half of the amount allocated this year.

It will fund treatment and testing of 35,000 confirmed and suspected cases, Recto said, citing a Senate briefer on next year’s public health spending.

Half, or PhP 500 million, of the HIV/AIDS fund will be used to buy anti-retroviral drugs. The rest will go to test kits and reagents (PhP 250 million), surveillance (PhP 50 million), and local prevention programs (PhP 200 million).

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.

At present, 10,628 Filipinos are currently enrolled and accessing medication in 22 treatment centers.

Area-wise, the National Capital Region will receive the 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 9 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 PhP 30,000 a year, or PhP 7,500 per quarter.

These initiatives are part of government’s response to stem the HIV tide after the regional World Health Organization (WHO) office warned that the Philippines has one of the fastest-growing HIV epidemics in the world, Recto said.

To the credit of this government, it is ramping up health spending, “increasing the DOH budget by PhP 36.4 billion, or from this year’s PhP 87.7 billion to PhP 124.2 billion next year,” Recto pointed out. (PNA)