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New HIV variant causes sharp rise, 47 per cent affected are teens

ANN/ Philippine Daily Inquirer – The country has witnessed a near doubling of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cases this year, with almost half of the cases involving teenagers, potentially linked to a newly identified strain of the virus, as reported by Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa.

Herbosa, referencing the most recent data, revealed on Tuesday that daily HIV infections have surged to approximately 50 new cases, a stark increase from last year’s daily average of 22. Notably, individuals aged 15 to 24 are the hardest hit, constituting 47 percent of the affected population, according to Herbosa.

“There’s a new subvariant that’s quite more infectious and this is the reason we’re finding this increase in cases,” he told reporters, citing infectious diseases specialist Dr Edsel Salvana.

“It’s been happening even before. We’re just detecting it (now) because we’re concentrated so much on COVID,” he said.

In 2022, a group of researchers led by Chris Wymant found that a new HIV variant called subtype B could cause a more severe infection and individuals hit by this strain may have “an average viral load about four times higher than usual”, according to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

Herbosa said on Monday that he had a meeting with Vice President Sara Duterte, who also heads the Department of Education, and that one of the topics they discussed was the rapidly growing number of HIV cases, specifically on the “interventions” to take regarding health literacy.

“We forged a stronger collaboration (and) convergence between… on the efforts we will put for adolescent health,” he said.

He added other health issues they tackled were teenage pregnancy, substance abuse, mental health, and nutrition.

The Philippines has one of the fastest-growing HIV epidemics in the world, dating back to 1984, UNAIDS said.

In 2017, the Department of Health declared the epidemic a national emergency because of the rapid rise of HIV cases. – Kathleen de Villa

PHOTO: ENVATO
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