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“Gay statistics” in the Philippines by consensus September 15, 2006

Posted by lagablab in hiv/aids.
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“Experts” in the field of HIV/AIDS came up with a consensus on the estimated number of “males who have sex with males” (MSMs) in the Philippines: it is from 379,799 to 804,280.

This is according to the 2005 HIV Estimates in the Philippines, a consensus report released by the Department of Health, World Health Organization, the United Nations Joint Programme on the HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), and the Field Epidemiology Training Program Alumni Foundation.

The method used by the report is “a mathematical modeling technique.” The consensus was based on two surveys that limited the definition of MSMs to those who admitted engaging in anal sex since a year prior to the studies.

The report states that “with a fairly accurate estimate of popultion sizes of high-risk groups, the National AIDS/STI Prevention and Control Program can plan intervention programs more effectively, ensure better program coverage, and more rational assessment of the effectiveness of current intervention programs.”

This is the sixth estimation process since 1993.

In 1993, a software called the EPIMODEL was used to calculate the over-all prevalence of HIV infection in the country. The estimate then was that 58, 000 Filipinos were infected with the virus and it was projected that by 2000, the prevalence would increase to 92,000. In 1996, a DOH/WHO model put the prevalence to 28,000 (est.), with 38,000 as the projected figure for 2000.

In 1998, a consensus of experts who reviewed data from the National HIV Sentinel Surveillance System (NHSSS), National AIDS/STD Prevention and Control Program (NASPCP), Bureau of Research and Laboratory (BRL), Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), and the University of the Philippines College of Public Health (UPCPH) retained the 1996 estimates.

A similar consensus in 2000 and 2002 reduced the HIV prevalence estimate to 10,000 and 6,000, respectively.

To arrived at a consensus, technical working groups composed of representatives from the Department of Health, National Epidemiology Center (NEC), STI/AIDS Cooperative Central Laboratory (SACCL), National Center for Disease Prevention and Control (NCDPC), Men’s Sexual Health/Family Health International, UPCPH, and the health offices of several local government units.

Several studies were used to determine the population size and HIV prevalence among MSMs:

  • the Rapid Assessment Survey of FHI in Baguio, Pasay, Zaboanga, Davao, and General Santos cities (2004-2005)
  • Serologic Surveillance (2005)
  • Integrated Biological and Behavioral Survey among MSMs in Baguio City, Pasay City, Quezon City, and Manila City of FHI (2004-2005)
  • National and Demographic Health Survey (2003)
  • Integrated HIV Behavioral and Serologic Surveillance (2005)

However, to come up with the MSM population size and HIV prevalence estimates, the 2005 Consensus Report used the National and Demographic Health Survey (2003) and the 2001 Men’s Study of Sexuality and AIDS (MENSSA). The former covered 3,147 males respondents, while the latter surveyed 2,148 men in Quezon City, Davao City and Cebu City.

For both NHDS and MENSSA, “males who have sex with males” are limited to men who have admitted engaging in anal sex a year since the studies were conducted. The 2005 Consensus Report adopted the same problematic definition of MSMs. The proportion of MSMs in both studies was then used to approximate the number of MSMs in the country’s total male population.

HIV/AIDS in the Philippines: hidden and growing August 28, 2006

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From low and slow to hidden and growing.

This is how the Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC) and the Joint United Nations Programme of HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Philippines characterize the prevalence of HIV infection in the Philippines. On August 25, 2006, PNAC and UNAIDS organized a consultation with organizations that work with communities of gays, bisexuals, transgenders and other “males who have sex with males” (MSMs) to look into the issue of addressing male-to-male sexual behavior and HIV/AIDS. TLF SHARE, a gay men’s NGO and a member of LAGABLAB-Pilipinas, spearheaded the consultation.

Other groups present in the consultation are Amnesty International Pilipinas, K2BGay, Reachout Foundation International, AIDS Society of the Philippines, and LAKANBINI-Bulacan, among others.

MSMs are considered to be one of the populations highly vulnerable to HIV infection. The other “vulnerable communities” are people in prostitution (PIPs) and their clients, injecting drug users (IDUs), and migrant workers. The presence of several factors suggests that HIV incidence in the country may be growing. The incidence of sexually transmitted infections (STI) among high-risk groups is high and condom use remains low. Multiple sexual partnerships are also common, with MSMs reporting an average of two sexual partners per month. In short, the ingredients for a full-blown epidemic are already present in the country.

The resources allotted by the government to address the problem, however, are negligible. Only about fifteen percent (15%) allotted for health this year went to preventive programs. The bulk of the budget went to maintain hospitals (70%), while the rest of the meager resources were spent on salaries of public health workers.

According to the Department of Health’s HIV and AIDS Registry, of the reported 2, 566 seropositive cases since 1984, most are males (1, 636) and in between 20-39 years old. Four hundred seventy-three (473) of the cases have been sexually transmitted through “homosexual contact”, while one hundred forty (140) cases have been transmitted through “bisexual contact”.

Dr. Roderick Poblete from the PNAC Secretariat said that figures on HIV/AIDS may not reveal the entire picture of HIV infection among MSMs. Dr. Poblete said that for many homosexual migrant workers infected with HIV, it is oftentimes easier to come out to their families and friends as HIV-positive than as homosexuals. Such realities are usually not reflected in the statistics gathered by the government.

Malou Quintos, Programme Coordinator of UNAIDS in the Philippines, said that in the Asia-Pacific region, MSMs are the least reached by preventive programs. According to Quintos, preventive efforts are able to cover 1% of the MSM communities in the Asia-Pacific region. She added that interventions have to scale up and increase their coverage among vulnerable communities to reverse the growing prevalence of HIV infection among MSMs. (Download Quintos’s presentation here) .

PNAC recently released the 4th AIDS Medium Term Plan, which serves as the country’s blueprint for action to accelerate response to STI/HIV/AIDS from 2005-2006. Compared to the previous AMTPs, the new one has explicit targets for MSMs and other vulnerable groups.

On September 23-26, 2006, a historic gathering of gay, bisexual, transgender and other MSM groups in the Asia-Pacific region will take place in New Delhi, India. A report on the Philippine consultation will be presented in the regional conference.

The ASEAN Summit, which will be hosted by the Philippines this December, will issue a new declaration on HIV/AIDS.

ASEAN urged to prioritize HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care June 29, 2006

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The next ASEAN Summit will be held in Cebu, Philippines, on the first week of December this year, and here the heads of governments and states of Southeast will sign a new Declaration on HIV/AIDS. The latest Declaration on HIV/AIDS was signed in Brunei Darrusalam on November 5, 2001.

A Work Programme supposedly gives flesh to these Declarations by putting down in paper specific commitments on HIV/AIDS made by ASEAN Member Countries. The ASEAN commitment on HIV/AIDS, based on the Brunei Declaration and its Work Programme, was ambitious; unfortunately, as noted by the Coalition of Asia Pacific Regional Networks on HIV/AIDS (also known as the7Sisters), it was not translated into effective national programs on HIV/AIDS. What makes it alarming is that the last Work Programme precluded effective and evidence-based interventions for vulnerable communities, i.e., men who have sex with men (MSMs), transgenders, drug users, sex workers, migrants and mobile populations.

In the Philippines, where the prevalence of HIV infection is considered ‘low and slow’, the laidback attitude of most ASEAN governments in dealing with the virus is evident. The government relies on the work being done by civil society groups, with the support international institutions like UNAIDS and other donors. The little that the government does to address the issue of HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care goes to faith-oriented programs. It is quite likely, for instance, for the government to allocate resources to support Couples for Christ’s campaign for abstinence than supporting efforts to encourage the use of condoms and lubricants among gay men or men who have sex with men.

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