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Infected but clueless: Mike Defensor warns about rise in undiagnosed HIV cases amid pandemic

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Anakalusugan party-list Mike Defensor has sounded the alarm on the surge of undiagnosed HIV cases in the country as testing slowed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Citing National AIDS Registry statistics, Defensor said that at the height of lockdowns from April to June 2020, only 934 new HIV cases were detected countrywide, down 68 percent from the 2,938 spotted in the same three-month period in 2019.

Overall, from January to September this year, only 5,627 new HIV cases were diagnosed, down 42 percent from the 9,749 discovered in the same nine-month period in 2019, Defensor said.

“There is only one reason for the big drop in newly reported HIV cases – fewer Filipinos who may be living with HIV are actually getting tested,” Defensor said.

“Thus, we may have a larger number of undiagnosed and untreated individuals out there contributing to the spread of HIV, mainly through sexual contact, without them knowing it,” he added.

Although HIV still does not have any known cure, early diagnosis and antiretroviral therapy (ART) slows the progression of the virus to a near halt and reduces the risk of transmission, according to the Department of Health.