The Department of Health is taking a step forward to extend help to HIV patients amid the alarming rise in HIV/AIDS cases globally, as it expands the antiretroviral therapy (ART) program in the Philippines. The agency is increasing its 2017 budget to provide ART to over 39,000 individuals infected by the virus.

How will ART work? Read on for the four health facts on antiretroviral therapy and who, among the HIV patients can undergo it.

1. ART suppresses HIV and prevents progression of the disease

According to the World Health Organization, standard ART consists of the combination of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs which suppresses the HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and stops the progression and transmission of the disease.

2. It is available to those registered in HIV treatment hubs

Lifelong ART is applied to individuals who need to lower the viral load of patients and improve their immune response. It is available to those registered in HIV treatment hubs. The WHO recommends the therapy for all HIV patients without any restrictions of CD4 counts.

3. It will be provided to over 39,000 HIV patients

Health secretary Paulyn Ubial recently bared plans to increase the 2017 budget from P900 million to P1 billion to provide ART to over 39,000 individuals. This means the government will spend around P25,641 for each patient.

4. Its drugs cost at least P2,700

The US Department of Health and Human Services said that each ART drug costs from $54 (P2,700) to $1,197 (P59,840). Meanwhile, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pegged a treatment program costs $500,000 (P25.01 million) annually.

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Rise in HIV/AIDS cases

The recent report of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) shows that roughly 78 million people are infected with HIV, since the start of the epidemic. Of the number, approximately 39.8 million are living with HIV and only 17 million of them are undergoing ART.

In the Philippines, a total of approximately 35,000 cases have been recorded since the first case of HIV was diagnosed in January 1984, in which 83 percent of them were reported from January 2011 to June 2016. Among the numbers, the secretary said that 18,000 are linked to care while 17,000 started using ART.

The increased budget to provide ART is only among the initiatives of the DOH set in the sixth edition of the country’s AIDS medium term plan (MTP). Aside from the treatment, the agency aims to increase knowledge in HIV transmission, prevention and services among 15 to 24-year olds to 90 percent, and as well as prevent new HIV infection among the same age group.

What do you think of the Health department’s initiatives to fight the spreading of HIV/AIDS infection? Let us know in the comments section below.