CEBU CITY, May 21 (PIA) -- Local government units (LGUs) are urged to hold activities in line with AIDS Candlelight Memorial this month to drive more awareness on the services that are being offered for people living with HIV as well as the gaps that need to be addressed.
"We are pushing for more LGUs to be more active in this celebration because they are the service providers," said Dr. Philip Van Baton, Medical Officer III of the Department of Health (DOH) Region 7, during the Kapihan sa PIA held in Cebu City.
Baton said the candlelight memorial is done every third Sunday of May to remember those who died from the infection and those who fought services and treatment for people living with HIV.
The free HIV testing and treatment services offered by the Philippine government is a recent development that Baton said started in 2009.
"All those that were diagnosed before 2009, they were struggling which is why we now commemorate AIDS Candlelight Memorial, to bring awareness that people with HIV need to demand for services, including from us at the government, because we are sensitive to public-driven demand. If you don't demand it, we will not know that you really need it," explained Baton.
On May 17, Cebu City government led the candlelight memorial ceremony in front of the Cebu City Hall.
Bohol and Compostela, Cebu also staged their own ceremony on the same day, while Dumaguete City will hold their own ceremony on May 24.
DOH has recorded a total of 5,773 HIV cases in Central Visayas since 1984.
In February this year alone, Baton said 90 new cases were recorded, the highest so far in a month.
Of the total, 5,200 cases come from Cebu province.
Philippines continues to have one of the fastest growing HIV epidemic in Asia.
Back in 2009, there was an average of two HIV cases per day in the country, but by 2019, the average jumped to 28 cases per day.
In the face of the alarming increase in HIV cases, the government has offered free HIV testing and treatment.
More HIV testing and treatment centers have also opened in the region, from only three in 2017 to now around 13 facilities, most of which are government-run.
Baton said the increase in the number of facilities offering free testing and treatment is one of the steps taken by the government to combat the climbing HIV infection. (rmn/PIA7)