In Focus Stanley Buenafe Gajete

Philippines says HIV drug supplies, services sufficient amid pandemic, contrary to WHO report

MANILA — The Philippines Health department assured the community of People Living with HIV (PLHIV) in the country has a stable supply of life-saving HIV drugs, contrary to recent WHO report that some countries face the “risk of running out” of drugs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement, Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque said that the Philippines is taking HIV’s threat seriously and ensuring a steady supply of HIV drugs are the key measures to stop this virus in its tracks, despite COVID-19 disruptions to delivery and services made by lockdowns.

The department also explained there are additional buffer stocks and most of the much-needed HIV drugs are sufficient until the end of the year.  

“The 2021 procurement plan is being reviewed to consider an increasing buffer stock and higher cost due to issues related to COVID-19 pandemic,” the health department said.

Free antiretroviral (ARV) drugs are also available in 160 government and private treatment facilities situated around the country, as per the health department.

Early this week, WHO issued a recent report that some countries including the Philippines are reporting disrupted HIV-testing due to COVID-19 pandemic as distribution of other critical prevention commodities including condoms is impacted by global lockdowns.

Based on the survey on relevant policies, drug stocks, service disruptions to treatment, testing and prevention and country responses made by WHO to 144 countries, 74 countries have warned that they are at risk due to out of stocks of antiretroviral (ARV) medicines because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

36 countries reported that they have critically low stocks of antiretroviral medicines due to disruptions in the medicine supply, while 38 countries have HIV testing disruptions due to pandemic.

WHO also monitors the situation on HIV incidence especially during the global lockdowns.

 According to WHO, an estimated 38.0 million people living with HIV worldwide at the end of 2019.

In the Philippines, there are 77,882 cumulative cases of HIV reported, and 45,444 of whom are already on life-long treatment as of April 2020. (By Stanley Buenafe Gajete)

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