Today is Dec 1, 2021. As you read this, we are currently seeing a downward trend in national COVID-19 cases. People are slowly trying to savor what small amount of normalcy we’re afforded during this holiday season. While COVID has been the pandemic that has predominantly taken our focus in the past 2 years, we cannot forget that there is another pandemic that’s raged on since the 80s.
HIV is no longer an unknown disease to many of us. The first case reported in the Philippines was in 1984, and since then, our cases have gotten worse and worse. Every hour, 2 people learn they are HIV positive in this country. Make no mistake: it is a pandemic, just one that isn’t given enough attention. Chances are, someone you know is fighting HIV – you just don’t know it.
We are celebrating the second World AIDS Day remotely and socially distant, and I will wager there will be comments such as, “DIBA COVID ANG ISSUE BAKIT HIV ANG PINAGUUSAPAN (Isn’t COVID the issue? Why talk about HIV?).” As if these issues are not both important health issues that we face.
COVID has changed the game for many illnesses, and HIV is one of them. Throughout the past year, HIV care has had to adapt to the need for physical distancing. Volunteer networks have been working to find ways to make sure people living with HIV (PLHIV) still have access to medication and medical care. Though PLHIVs in the Philippines have always lived in anxiety about medicine availability, COVID has made this even worse, as our public health systems continue to deteriorate.
We cannot forget that while we battle COVID-19, there is another pandemic that plagues our brothers and sisters. As we light today’s candles, even virtually or however physically distant, do remember what COVID has taught us: Healthcare is a human right, and HIV is a healthcare issue.