THE country’s raging human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) epidemic has not spared pregnant women and children, Rep. Michael Defensor (Anakalusugan) said on Sunday.
Citing figures from the National HIV/AIDS Registry, Defensor said the growing number of Filipinos living with HIV now includes 610 women who were found infected while they were pregnant and 236 children under 10 years old.
“The 236 children were infected via mother-to-child transmission,” Defensor, vice chairperson of House committee on welfare of children, said.
“In addition to the 236 children under 10 years old, nine other adolescents aged 10 to 19 years old were also infected via mother-to-child transmission,” Defensor said.
Of the 610 pregnant women diagnosed HIV-positive, Defensor said 52 percent (or 310 cases) were aged 15-24 years old while 41 percent (or 248 cases) were 25-34 years old.
A mother living with HIV has a 15 percent to 45 percent chance of transmitting the infection to her child during pregnancy, labor, delivery, or breastfeeding, in the absence of intervention, such as maternal treatment, according to the World Health Organization.
Mother-to-child transmission is one of the ways by which HIV may be spread. The other ways are through sexual contact, the sharing of infected needles among illegal drug users, and to a lesser extent, the transfer of contaminated blood products, and needlestick injury.
Defensor previously warned that due to disruptions in health services caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Philippines could see a fresh surge in HIV infections, with the country’s cumulative HIV caseload expected to top the 100,000-mark by mid-year.
In Quezon City where he is running for mayor, Defensor on Sunday vowed to improve public access to HIV prevention, testing, and treatment services.
“We will increase the number of HIV treatment hubs in Quezon City. Right now, we only have six facilities providing HIV outpatient and inpatient care services,” Defensor said.
HIV causes AIDS, or the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, which destroys the human body’s natural ability to ward off all kinds of infections.
While HIV still does not have any known cure, antiretroviral therapy (ART) slows the progression of the virus to a near halt and reduces the risk of transmission.