In a research conducted by the Department of Health (DOH), for the 2016 National Study on the State of HIV Epidemic in the Philippines, it is found out that HIV has become prevalent among the Filipino youth. According to the said studies, Filipino youngsters aged 15-24 accounted for all new HIV diagnoses. “This is pretty much alarming for everyone. Imagine as young as 15 years old are now acquiring this lifetime disease?,” asks Dr. Rontgene Solante, infectious diseases specialist from Manila Medical Hospital (ManilaMed) during a round-table discussion with the media recently.
Dr. Solante also revealed that many of the newly diagnosed HIV cases among the youth come from gay and bisexual males. Despite the medical advances that have transformed HIV treatment have yet to alter the stark reality for young people, particularly in low to middle-income families and within key populations. Even worldwide, AIDS-related mortality has also increased in numbers. Truth to be told, our fight with AIDS, in other words, is far from over – especially for young people.
In its effort to take the lead on the issue of urban health, ManilaMed is doing its part to take the initiative for the need to address this serious issue in the midst of rapid urbanization and gentrification.
There are many factors that put young people at an elevated risk of HIV. Adolescence and early adulthood is a critical period of development when significant physical and emotional changes occur. Adolescents and young people have growing personal autonomy and responsibility for their individual health. The transition from childhood to adulthood is also a time for exploring and navigating peer relationships, gender norms, sexuality and economic responsibility.
Multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and structural inequality affect the lives of young people and increase their vulnerability to HIV. Every week, 7,500 young women across the world acquire HIV. Young women are twice as likely to acquire HIV as young men and in some regions the difference between genders is particularly stark. HIV also disproportionately affects young men who have sex with men, young people who use drugs, young transgender people and young sex workers. In Asia, 95% of young people diagnosed with HIV fall into at least one of these groups.
Excluding vertical transmission, unprotected sex is the most common route of HIV infection for young people, with sharing infected needles the second. For some, this is a result of not having the correct knowledge about HIV and how to prevent it, highlighting the need for HIV and sexual and reproductive health and rights education. For others, it is the result of being forced to have unprotected sex, or to inject drugs.
Young transgender people’s immediate HIV risk is related primarily to sexual behavior, especially unprotected anal sex. Some young transgender people also sell sex or inject street drugs, silicon and hormones, putting them at even higher risk of acquiring HIV. Experiences of stigma, discrimination, abuse, exploitation and violence, including sexual violence, are common.