MANILA - The Philippines has a stable supply of life-saving HIV drugs, the Department of Health said Wednesday, despite a World Health Organization report that more than 70 countries face the risk of running out of HIV drugs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque said the Philippines is taking the threat of HIV seriously after recording 77,882 cumulative cases of HIV as of April 2020, 45,444 of whom are already on life-long treatment.
The DOH said the government's stock of HIV drugs is sufficient until the end of the year. Free antiretroviral drugs are available in 160 government and private treatment facilities situated around the country, according to DOH.
"The 2021 procurement plan is being reviewed to consider increasing buffer stocks and higher cost due to issues related to COVID-19 pandemic,” the DOH said in a statement.
A WHO report earlier said more than 70 countries are reporting disrupted HIV-testing due to COVID-19 pandemic as distribution of other critical prevention commodities including condoms is impacted by global lockdowns.
Andrew Seale, adviser of the WHO department of global HIV, hepatitis and sexually transmitted Infection programs, said lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic are interrupting the distribution of critical commodities, which could lead to a rise in HIV cases.
“HIV drugs are used for prevention as well as treatment and so an interruption in their supply could have an impact on HIV incidence,” Seale said.
He added: “We don’t yet know how modified behaviors and a lack of commodities will impact over time. HIV is a highly dynamic disease and COVID-19 adds a further layer of complexity and unpredictability to our work.”
The WHO Western Pacific said the Philippines has been particularly affected by stringent movement restrictions since mid-March of 2020, as public transportation largely stopped, making it more difficult to reach clinics and health facilities.
Anne Brink, medical officer for HIV, Hepatitis and STI in the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific, said it is working with health authorities, partners and communities in the region to closely monitor the trend of new cases.
“Shipments that were delayed earlier in the outbreak are now being delivered, so countries that had low stocks of drugs have recently replenished them. This includes the Pacific Islands, where there’s been an increase in the number of flights arriving with drugs and supplies,” she said. With Stanley Gajete