Philippines has sufficient supply of HIV drugs, DOH says

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Nine-year-old Tumelo shows off antiretroviral (ARV) pills before taking his medication at Nkosi's Haven, south of Johannesburg November 28, 2014. Siphiwe Sibeko, Reuters/File

MANILA – The Philippines has sufficient supply of antiretroviral drugs for people living with HIV, the health ministry said Tuesday, following reports that dozens of countries were at risk of running out of medication for the AIDS-causing virus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The DOH (Department of Health) has secured stocks of antiretroviral drugs for HIV up until next year," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a press briefing.

"There is also an ongoing procurement for this drug so we won't have any shortage in the future," she added.

Antiretroviral treatment reduces patient's viral load to the point that they are undetectable, and prevents onward sexual transmission to other people.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Monday 73 countries were at risk of stockout of antiretroviral medicine due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Countries and their development partners must do all they can to ensure that people who need HIV treatment continue to access it," said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

"We cannot let the COVID-19 pandemic undo the hard-won gains in the global response to this disease," he added.

Data from WHO showed that new HIV infections fell by 39 percent while HIV-related deaths decreased by 51 percent between 2000 and 2019. Some 15 million lives were saved through the use of antiretroviral drugs.

According to a 2019 report from UNAIDS, there are 97,000 people living with HIV in the Philippines, of whom 43,000 are on antiretroviral treatment.

The virus that causes AIDS has so far claimed 1,600 lives, the report added. 

HIV is mainly spread through sexual intercourse or sharing of needles, and can also be passed on from an infected pregnant mother to her child.

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