HIV Testing in the Philippines – What you need to know and what you must know.
The Department of Health now ranks Philippines as one of the countries that has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world with a prevalence rate of 5% nationwide. There is a 20-25% prevalence rate in Metro Manila and 15-20% prevalence rate in Cebu. This rate dwarfed the prevalence rate in South Africa, which has the largest population of HIV positive individuals in the world, with a mere 4.7%. Prevalence rate refers to the percentage of individual affected by the disease at specific time. With that in mind, we can say that right now, in a population of 110 Million Filipinos, there are 5.5 Million individuals currently living with HIV.
Mere 5 years ago when I started making this blog, The Philippines is a low prevalence country with less than 1% of the population affected by HIV. This rapidly growing epidemic if left uncontrolled will eventually make The Philippines at par with South Africa with 1 out 10 individuals affected with HIV. So what went wrong? As a nurse with 15 years experience handling HIV cases and working actively with HIV positive individuals, here are my personal conclusions, do take note that this conclusions are not even close with the official conclusion of the Department of Health on why HIV became a rapidly growing epidemic in The Philippines. I personally think that their conclusion is too traditional and not in touch with the modern activities of our youth.
It is estimated that there 1,000 reported HIV cases per month since the 6 months of 2016. At that rate, we can assume that there are 30 to 50 reported HIV cases daily. This does not include unreported cases. Unreported cases are HIV positive individuals who do not know they are infected. The epidemic growth rate is about 200% per year. This means that if not controlled, we could see a tenfold growth of HIV cases (300-500 cases per day) within the next 10 years.
– DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
One of the most important thing to do to prevent transmission is knowing your status. HIV is a very controllable disease as long as it is detected early and has not yet done major damage to your organs most specially the Liver, Kidneys and the Brain. There are many ways of getting tested for HIV in the Philippines. We will discuss each of them, one by one including their advantages and disadvantages.
Testing by going to hospitals is one of the most common means of getting tested. There are 5 hospitals in our country that specializes with HIV counseling and testing as well as referrals in case you tested positive and needing further treatment. In no particular order: RITM, San Lazaro Hospital, St. Lukes Medical Center both in Quezon City and Global, Makati Medical Center and Medical City in Ortigas. Do take note that the cost for HIV testing is around 1,100 to 3,800 in the private hospitals I mentioned.
PROS: If done correctly, results are very accurate. This is also the only results acknowledged in various employment and immigration requirements.
CONS: There is always an issue with regards to privacy and confidentiality getting tested in any hospital. Though privacy is protected by our health care professionals, there are many incidents of information leakage caused by poor protocol with regards to transfer of information such as students getting free access to medical records without permission or a slip of tongue during a conversation of one of the member of the health care team handling the HIV case. Hacking is another risk when it comes to electronically stored medical information and records of medication being dispensed from the Pharmacy and to whom.
When it comes to public hospitals, though uncommon, there are recorded cases of results being switched between patients. It is not unheard of that a certain person tested positive though in reality, he is negative simply because a specimen sample was incorrectly labeled with his name. Lapse in judgment and concentration of our overworked and underpaid medical professionals is the main culprit in most cases.
LOVE YOURSELF MALATE HUB
#1850 Leon Guinto Street, Malate, Manila.
LOVE YOURSELF ANGLO HUB
Unit 5, 3/F, Anglo Building, #715-A Shaw Boulevard, Mandaluyong City.
PROS: Free and they offer counselling as well. Staff are very friendly, professional and trained.
CONS: Privacy and result confidentiality are concerns when it comes to free and public testing. Though trained, innocent conversations could lead to information leakage both consciously and unconsciously. There are cases wherein a Volunteer saw a recently positive patient in the mall and told his friend that “That guys just tested positive yesterday.”
Advanced home test kits like Fujibio HIV kit has 99.9% accuracy similar to that of Hospital based testing.
Testing kits are widely used as the main method in HIV detection in some hospitals and hygiene clinic. All free testing done by volunteer groups uses HIV test kits. HIV testing hubs also uses HIV kits. Medical missions and workplace testing will usually use HIV testing kits. They are easy to use with result at 99.9% accuracy seen in mere 10 minutes. The common brands in The Philippines are Fujibio and SD Bio. Fujibio is Japanese made while SD Bio is Korean made. Both should give an accurate result with 99.9% certainty similar to that of hospital based testing. Only Fujibio HIV test kits are the only one you can buy online.
PROS: Very easy to use and results are very accurate. I would personally recommend testing using test kits first as to give you an accurate idea of your status before going to the hospital. That way, you will know that you will test negative or positive in advance privately. It is also very convenient and you are assure that only you will know the result. Fujibio hiv test kits being sold online also offers free counseling.
CONS: Since the person that bought the kit will usually test himself or herself, Anxiety could lead to testing delay. Some people will contemplate for weeks before using the test kits and then eventually forgets that he bought one.
A positive HIV test using an HIV Home Test Kit
If you used any of my recommendations above in getting tested and you tested positive, DO NOT DESPAIR. HIV is a very controllable disease and achievement of undetectable viral load is the treatment goal. Living a normal life is very possible with HIV as long as treatment is started and adherence to the treatment regimen is established. We have 2 options in getting treated.
RITM is the premiere and the leading facility in The Philippines when it comes to antiretroviral drug distribution as well as treatment for HIV patients. This should be your first choice in obtaining confirmatory results and further treatment if the initial testing result was positive. RITM is more specialized than San Lazaro and could deal with serious HIV related complications such as Mycobacterium Bovis infection as well as cryptococcal infection of the brain.
Total estimated fare cost: 60 -120 Pesos.
For private vehicles:
If you have the budget of about 25,000 pesos every 6 months, a possible alternative is getting tested and treated in Thailand. The Thai Red Cross Aids Research Center is one of the most advanced HIV treatment facility in the world eclipsing RITM. They use the most advanced drugs that you need to only take once a day as compared to a cocktail of 2-3 medications that the Philippines still uses. Blood works such as CD4 testing is around 500 pesos and results are ready in 3 days. The medications used in TRCARC are the best medications available and is very cheap, it will only cost you about 10,000 pesos for your 6 months supply. This same medication costs about 80,000 per 1 month supply in the United States. It is cheaper in Thailand because it is subsidized by the Thai Government. You can only purchase 6 month supply of the drug as they will require you to come back every 6 months for monitoring your health status. This advanced medication is only taken once a day and has very little side effects. They look like Centrum tablets.
The Thai Red Cross AIDS Research Centre
Address: 104 Ratchadamri Road, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330
(5 minutes’ walk from the Rajdamri BTS station and Silom MRT station)
Tel. (+66) 2-256-4107-9
Fax: (+66) 2-254-7577
DISCLAIMER: We here at HIV Test Philippines testify that opinions we expressed above are based on what we believe are facts. We are not paid by nor endorsing RITM, TRCARC and other hospitals or products mentoined above. Information above are based on what we think are best with regards to getting tested in the Philippines. Contributors here at HIV Test Philippines are HIV Counselors and are working actively for more than 5-15 years in HIV clinics in the Philippines.