HIV in the Philippines

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In June 2016, 841 new HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) cases were recorded in the HIV/AIDS and ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP) – the highest number of new infections recorded in a month since 1984. This sets the average number of daily HIV infections in the country to 26, compared with the average per day of 17 in 2014 and 9 in 2012.

 

Of the total 841 cases, 789 were males and 43 were females; 456 were aged 24 to 34 and 226 were aged 15 to 24. Furthermore, 777 of the total cases were attributed to sexual transmission, mostly among men who have sex with men (MSM), which accounted for 690 cases. Sixty cases were attributed to needle sharing among intravenous drug users, while four cases were reportedly caused by mother-to-child transmission.

 


For questions and more information, you may drop by any of our clinics, send us a message on our Facebook page, or check out our website.

How is HIV transmitted?

screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-11-32-04-amHIV, the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), is transmitted via certain bodily fluids, including blood, semen, pre-cum, vaginal fluid, rectal fluid, and breast milk, through means such as sexual intercourse, blood transfusion, needle sharing, and mother-to-child transmission.

With the increasing rate of HIV infections in the country, further raising awareness about and preventing the spread of the virus is more pressing than ever. And while abstaining from sex (and other risky behaviors that can expose you to HIV) may be the best way to protect yourself, sex education and sex positivity can help you enjoy a healthy and satisfying sex life. This is where the Triangle of Self Care comes in.

 

How is HIV Transmitted?

Sexual Intercourse

HIV can be transmitted through unprotected, penetrative sexual intercourse, which is possible through anal, vaginal, and oral sex. The risks associated with various sexual practices are different. Please check out information on safe and satisfying sex to know more about it.

Needle Sharing

Sharing of needles (or syringes) poses a high risk of HIV transmission. Hormones, drugs, steroids, or silicone that are administered to the body through needles or syringes may facilitate HIV transmission if the needles and equipment are tainted with someone else’s blood, thus transmitting HIV. Tattoos and body piercing for the same reason also pose some risk of HIV transmission due to unsanitary practices such as sharing needles and ink or poorly sterilized needles and equipment.

Blood Transfusion

Blood transfusion also poses a risk of HIV transmission. It is therefore imperative for medical facilities to ensure that the blood and the donor of the blood are thoroughly screened. It is generally advised for people who want to be tested for HIV or for other sexually transmitted infections to not donate blood. It is possible that blood that has been tested as negative or nonreactive at the time of donation can turn out reactive as the virus replicates itself in the blood, and the viral load is increased. However, as screening procedures implemented by most medical care providers are highly rigorous, the chances for this happening is extremely low and should not be the cause of undue panic or worry.

Mother-to-child Transmission

There is a high chance of an HIV infected mother to pass on the virus to her child during pregnancy or giving birth, especially if she is unaware of the infection and has not been receiving any antiretroviral treatment (ART). Furthermore, breastfeeding is also a mode of mother-to-child transmission as the virus is also found in breast milk. Please note, however, that infected mothers could take care of their unborn child by taking ART. The treatment reduces the chances of HIV transmission from mother to child. In some cases, seropositive or infected mothers on ART give birth to seronegative or uninfected offspring.

 

 


For questions and more information, you may drop by any of our clinics, send us a message on our Facebook page, or check out our website.

What is TSC?

screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-11-29-36-amThe Triangle of Self Care (TSC) is an easy-to-remember guide to living a healthy sex life. TSC stands for the following important points:

 

Timely Testing and Treatment

If you’re sexually active, knowing your HIV status is a must. Earlier detection of the virus means better chances of survival because you can have early access to treatment and medication. Getting tested for the very first time may be unnerving to some, but conquering those nerves is a step in the right direction. In LoveYourself clinics, testing is completely anonymous, confidential, and free.

Testing nonreactive at the right time for HIV means you do not carry the virus, and that you can further educate yourself on how to remain HIV-free. Testing positive, on the other hand, means you carry the virus and can immediately get treatment, plus make the necessary lifestyle changes to live a long and productive life.

HIV has a window period (or the time between possible exposure to HIV and the point when the test can produce an accurate result) of three months, so regular testing every three months should be part of your routine if you’re sexually active. And remember that HIV infection may also be asymptomatic, meaning the person infected may look and feel perfectly healthy, so testing is really the way to go.

 

Safe and Satisfying Sex

It’s engaging in risky sexual behaviors that can expose you to HIV, not your sexual orientation. Sex education and sex positivity are key to having a safe and satisfying sex life.

Be sure to keep yourself informed of the risks of your sexual acts. Read, and read only reliable sources. Ask experts, if you must. Keep updated on the latest news about sexual health and practices, HIV, and AIDS.

Communicate with your sexual partner and agree on ways through which you both can enjoy sex and stay safe. Just a couple of the things that can help you are condoms and lubricants., and treatments such as PreP and TasP.

Treatments like PreP and TasP can be taken in concurrence with safe sex practices and give further protection. PreP or pre-exposure prophylaxis can be used by serodiscordant couples, or when one is reactive while the other is non-reactive, to reduce the risk of the non-reactive person from acquiring the virus. TasP on the other hand, which includes ART, enables a reactive person to still engage in sexual activities and live a normal lifestyle. It is important to emphasize that these treatments should be used with safe sex practices such as wearing condoms and using water-based lubricants

 

Correct and Consistent Use of Condoms and Lubricants

Condoms and lubricants help significantly lower the risk of HIV infection when used correctly. They also prevent the spread of other STIs (sexually transmitted infections). By properly using condoms and water-based lubricants, you can be protected and rid of worries, and ultimately enjoy sex.

Different condoms and lubes are available on the market, so you can find something that fits your preference. For example, there are thinner yet very durable condoms that can make sex more pleasurable. Be sure to store your condoms and lubricants properly, and constantly check to see that they’re not expired.

Protecting yourself from HIV doesn’t mean not being able to enjoy sex. With the Triangle of Self Care – Timely Testing and Treatment, Safe and Satisfying Sex, and Correct and Consistent use of Condoms and Lubricants – you can stay happy, healthy, and sexually satisfied.

 


For questions and more information, you may drop by any of LoveYourself’s clinics, send us a message on our Facebook page, or check out our website.

Timely Testing and Treatment

Sexual contact, specifically unprotected and penetrative, is one of the three ways from which HIV can be transmitted. Based on when your last sexual contact was, how would you know if it’s the right time for you to get tested?

Knowing your status is important, but knowing your status at the right time may spell the difference in doing the right thing in safeguarding your health. If you knew your status the soonest, you could either start protecting yourself by practicing safer sex behaviours, or you could start your treatment right away. But how would you know when is the best time to get tested?

Timely Testing

If not knowing about your status is something that is bothering you,then you can consider having yourself tested for the virus. If you suspect that you might have been exposed to the virus due to possibly  risky activity, going to accredited HIV testing centers such as LoveYourself can help address any concerns you may have by having yourself tested while getting counseled through the process. Counseling helps you clear your doubts, assess your risk factors, and guide you through the testing process. Searching online for bits and pieces of information about HIV may give you some ideas about the virus, but may end you up making false decisions or scaring yourself. Counselors are there to help you assess whatever information you may have and help you face the situation more positively. Moreover, counseling services such as those provided by clinics like LoveYourself are free and all information are treated with confidentiality. LoveYourself’s clinics at LoveYourself Anglo and LoveYourself Uni are safe spaces where you can feel secure and cared for.

Knowing the Window Period

To give you an overview on how you could determine if it is the right time for you to get tested, you must understand what the Window Period is first. This is the time between a potential exposure to HIV infection and the point when the test will give an accurate result.

LoveYourself’s clinics at LoveYourself Anglo and LoveYourself Uni advise a window period of three months.  This means that if you suspect to have  been infected by HIV, three months after the sexual encounter is the recommended time to get tested.

If you have a pretty active sex life, you should consider having yourself tested in regular intervals corresponding to the window period suggested by your chosen clinic. If your test results are non-reactive, this is a chance for you to practicing safe sex. Plus, there are many ways on how you could still have safe and satisfying sex while minimizing the risks of acquiring the virus, including correct and consistent use of condoms and water-based lubricants. If you are a Person Living with HIV (PLHIV), you have to religiously and responsibly undergo timely treatment as prescribed by your doctor to continue having a healthy, normal lifestyle. Furthermore, a PLHIV undergoing treatment can still engage in safe sex activities, without the risk of passing the virus to someone.

Antiretroviral Therapy

Finding out one is infected with HIV still comes as a shock to most people. However, being infected with the virus is not the end and one must not lose hope.  Antiretroviral Therapy or ARV is administered to those who tested reactive to the virus and works by suppressing the HIV virus and preventing it further from replicating within your body. Getting detected earlier is also key, as it allows for interventions to be administered earlier and for the body to combat the infection before it advances further.

About our CD4 cells

First let us briefly talk about how HIV affects the immune system. In the blood, the white blood cells are responsible for fighting off infections. These white blood cells have several types, including the CD4 lymphocytes. CD4 lymphocytes are also known by their other names – T cells or helper cells. They are particularly called helper cells because they send signals to other types of immune cells which destroy the infectious particle – which may be a virus, for example.

HIV binds itself to the CD4 lymphocytes rendering these cells useless. HIV then uses the machinery of the CD4 lymphocytes to replicate itself. Without the CD4 cells, the immune system cannot know that there is an infection they have to combat, rendering the body defenseless.

This is one of the reasons why CD4 count, or the number of CD4 cells in a sample of blood, is obtained from a person who tested reactive to HIV. A healthy individual has a CD4 count of anywhere between 500 – 1,600 cells/mm3. An HIV infection, left untreated, drives the CD4 count lower. A person with a CD4 count of 200 cells/mm3 becomes susceptible to infections.

ART helps PLHIVs live a normal lifestyle

ART deactivates the HIV virus preventing it from multiplying within the body. It is usually prescribed the soonest a person is tested to be reactive to the virus, regardless of CD4 count levels. This is the reason early detection, when a person’s CD4 count is still within acceptable levels enabling the body to fight infections just as a healthy person would, is key.

ART, however, is a lifetime medication that has to be taken regularly. It will not be effective when not taken in regular intervals as it will allow the virus opportunity to replicate within the body. Its regular and consistent intake ensures that the virus will continually be suppressed. With regular and consistent treatment, the numbers of the virus within the body, or the viral load, decreases until the person will not be able to infect someone else with the virus.

It is important to emphasize and reiterate, however, that ART is a lifetime medication that must be consistently taken. The government has extended its hand in helping out in the HIV crisis by allowing Philhealth members get ART medication for free. However, obtaining this medication must be consulted first and prescribed by your doctor.

For questions and more information, you may drop by any of our clinics, send us a message on our Facebook page, or check out our website.

 

Safe and Satisfying Sex

The HIV virus is present only in certain body fluids: these include blood, semen (includingpre-ejaculatory fluids or  precum), vaginal fluids, rectal fluids, and breast milk. These fluids are most likely to facilitate transmission of the virus to another person through the following means: unprotected sexual intercourse, needle sharing, blood transfusion, and mother-to-child transmission. Moreover, HIV virus must exist in sufficient amounts, or what is known as the viral load, to be able to infect the body.

How can HIV be transmitted through sexual intercourse

HIV can be transmitted through unprotected penetrative sex, which is possible through anal, vaginal, and oral sex.

As HIV can be found in the blood, semen, pre-ejaculatory fluid, or rectal fluid of a person infected with the virus, anal sex poses the highest risk for transmitting the virus. The bottom in anal sex is at higher risk of being infected as the lining of the rectum is thin and may allow HIV to enter the body during anal sex. However, the top is also at risk as the virus can enter through the urethra or through small cuts, abrasions, or sores on the penis.

Vaginal sex poses the second highest risk for HIV transmission. HIV can enter the body through the mucous membrane of the vagina and the cervix. Vaginal sex is the primary cause of infection for women. However, similar to anal sex, men can be infected with HIV through small cuts, abrasions, or sores on the penis.

Oral sex involves putting the genitals in the mouth – be it through fellatio (penis), cunnilingus (vagina), or the anus (anilingus or “rimming”). Generally these sexual practices pose little risk, but the risk for getting other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is high. If fecal matter, even in unnoticeable amounts, gets into the mouth of the giver, transmission of Hepatitis A and B, and bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli and Shigella are possible. Diseases like herpes and gonorrhea are also easily transmitted through oral sex. Please be aware that STIs can increase your risk of getting HIV, as STIs can produce sores, abrasions, and lesions where HIV can enter.

Though not mentioned, it is possible for HIV to be transmitted by means of HIV-carrying bodily fluids coming into contact with the body through open cuts and wounds on the skin of the person.

How can sex be safe yet satisfying?

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Condom use during anal and vaginal sex can lead to a significant reduction in the risk of getting infected by HIV. Combined with right lubrication through water-based lubricants, the  correct use of condoms ensures satisfying sex while maintaining a lower risk of HIV transmission. Technology and product innovation have allowed the production of thinner, yet durable and sturdy condoms that make it feel as if one isn’t wearing a condom. A qualitative study in 2015 on condom use conducted by the Epidemiology Bureau of the Department of Health (DOH) cites physical pleasure as one barrier to using condoms, as a lot of respondents perceive sex without condoms as more pleasurable over protected sex, adding that more sensations are felt with unprotected sex.

While the idea does not sit very well with most people, wearing condoms during oral sex also reduces the already low risk posed by oral sex. The protection provided by a condom helps to ensure that transmission of blood or semen or pre-ejaculatory fluid is not passed on to either party. This is also a more efficient way of preventing transmission of other STIs.

There are other sexual practices that ensure satisfaction and ensure safety of both partners from possible HIV infection. Practices such as frottage or dry-humping, masturbation, phone sex, cyber sex, sexy or “dirty” talk, and non-sexual massage are often almost-zero-risk sexual activities. However, for dry humping and masturbation, getting ejaculatory fluid on an external lesion poses a risk of HIV infection. Nevertheless, these practices may actually benefit relationships between partners as both are made to find ways to add more variety to sexual pleasure, increasing intimacy and trust, and improve both verbal and nonverbal communication.

LoveYourself espouses the virtue of self-worth as instrumental to HIV prevention. Self-worth is the ability to perceive oneself as worthy of respect and that to engage in unsafe practices for the satisfaction of others is against one’s decision to take care of oneself, sexual health included. Armed with a sense of self-worth, one can decide to get oneself tested and take care of one’s health accordingly, and adhere to safe sex practices.

Moreover, treatments like PreP and TasP can be taken in concurrence with safe sex practices and give further protection. PreP or pre-exposure prophylaxis can be used by serodiscordant couples, or when one is reactive while the other is non-reactive, to reduce the risk of the non-reactive person from acquiring the virus. TasP on the other hand, which includes ART, enables a reactive person to still engage in sexual activities and live a normal lifestyle. It is important to emphasize that these treatments should be used with safe sex practices such as wearing condoms and using water-based lubricants.

We must remind everyone though that these safe sex practices and treatments do not give complete assurance that one will remain HIV-free. Sexually active people are always advised to get tested regularly and in a timely manner, and to be aware of the proper usage of condoms and lubricants. At the end of the day, it’s more important to find out about your status rather than assuming what it is.

 

For questions and more information, you may drop by any of our clinics, send us a message on our Facebook page, or check out our website.

 

Correct and Consistent Use of Condom

In the Philippines, religion, social perceptions, and accessibility to condoms are just a few of the barriers to condom use. On the other hand, the figures suggesting a rise in HIV infections gives more urgency to the need to use condoms and practice safe sex. An article in Rappler bemoans the continued low use of condoms despite the many efforts of advocacy groups such as LoveYourself. In 2013, only 37% of sexually active Filipinos use condoms, 13% of which believe that HIV is not transmitted through unprotected, or condom-free, sex. This suggests that information and advocacy programs, though present, have not fully covered key population sectors, such as the youth, of which only a quarter are equipped with sufficient knowledge about HIV/AIDS and protecting oneself from getting infected, at the collegiate level. Equipping ourselves with knowledge is no longer a luxury or a privilege but a necessity.

“Condoms, when used correctly and consistently, are highly effective in preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted infections,” the World Health Organization (WHO) stressed.

Condoms 101

You don’t need to know rocket science to figure out how to use a condom. However, as easy as it sounds to just put them on and do your business, several steps and precautions should be followed to ensure that they serve their purpose which is to prevent the spread of HIV or other STIs

Condom Care

While these things are made to protect us, they’re not made of steel. To make sure that they’re in good condition when you use them in action, know the following commandments on condom use:-

  • Make sure that they’re placed in a cool dry place and please check the expiration date before putting them on – These things maybe designed for durability but they’re most definitely not indestructible to wear and tear. Be mindful of its expiration date, there’s a chance that they’ll break or be brittle if they’re way past the date they should be used.
  • Keep one near you – You never know when you need one. We may try to abstain doing the deed, but just to be safe, when something unpredictable transpires it’s best to have one nearby.
  • Consistently use it – Never take a gamble when to use it. One unprotected encounter may cost you a lot.
  • Follow the instructions when opening it – There’s a reason why the edges are not aligned, it’s so you can easily open it. So, next time you want to be sexy and open it with your teeth, think again. Our teeth are sharp and it can damage the content.
  • Use condoms with proper lubricant – Yes, these things are lubed up. However, if it dries up during friction, breakage is the next thing that’ll happen. Don’t use oil based lubes like lotion and petroleum jelly as they make condoms prone to tearing. Go for water based lubes.
  • Put in on the way it should be put on – Don’t forget to pinch the tip of the condom to remove the air so when you excrete your load, it’ll go directly to that small sac. The same way you should properly put it on, removing it properly is also necessary. Pinch or roll the small sac and carefully pull it out to prevent leakage.
  • Throw it away properly – Keep it classy. Wrap it up in tissue and make sure that you tie the end with a knot. And, in this case, never wash and recycle for obvious reasons.

How to put on a condom

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During sexual intercourse, condoms are worn to prevent the transmission of the virus through the transfer of semen from one guy to another. The first step in the process is getting the penis erect. And the rest is easy as:

  • Carefully open the packet, taking care not to tear the condom wrapped in it.
  • Hold the tip of the condom between your forefinger and your thumb and while making sure that no air is trapped in, slowly roll it down the shaft of the penis while it is erect
  • If it doesn’t roll down, then you’re probably have it inside out. Get another condom as it may have precum or semen on it.
  • Make sure that you still have it on while having sex. If it comes off, it’s best to get another one.
  • After ejaculation, make sure that your trap the semen on the tip before sliding it off the still erect penis.
  • Wrap it up and throw it away.

Condoms, anyone?

Yes, you may be thinking that it’s embarrassing to buy rubber at your nearest convenience store.

Nowadays, there are numerous types of condoms available in the market from the material used, sensation, to functionality. Aside from it being a contraceptive, condoms now serve other purposes to give people who buy them more options. Back then, condoms were just vanilla or plain, now, there are different flavors that help spice up your sexual encounters with your partner. As for the material, the most common is latex which is safe and durable. There’s also no excuse not to wear them because of the size because condoms come in different sizes. They’re also elastic and can fit just right with any penis size.

Some popular brands that are available in the market right now are Contempo, Trojan, LifeStyles, Durex, Kimono, Feel, and Line One Laboratories. Majority of condoms in the market are made of latex and polyurethane, the latter for people allergic to latex. To keep up with the various needs of people, manufacturers have released condoms that differ in size, shapes, thickness like flavored condoms, ultra thin, ribbed, and the come in different colors including glow in the dark.

It’s a common misconception that condoms are pricey and are expensive that’s why people opt to avoid using it. Condoms in the market are priced from 40 and up. Purchasing and using condoms is a smart move; money wise and health wise. Condoms can be easily purchased from major pharmacies such as Mercury Drug and Watsons, convenience stores such as Mini Stop, 7-11, and Family Mart, and supermarket chains such as Robinsons.

Why use condoms? 

There are many reasons why you should use a condom during sexual intercourse. Aside from contraception and the different types of condom that enhance and further stimulate the intimate activity, it’s a safeguard from life threatening diseases like STIs and HIV. There has been an alarming increase in the HIV cases every month.

If you are sexually active and doing casual sex, it won’t hurt to wear condoms as there are condoms that are designed to cater to various needs including those that are so thin that they’re barely there. There’re also condoms that are ribbed that produces more friction. So there is really no reason for you to be afraid of wearing them. Lastly, it does not only save yourself but it also saves others. If you do not know your status, it’s advisable to get tested and always practice safe sex. With the rampant increase in STI and HIV, a simple gesture of wearing one can protect you from most infections. The frightening fact about this is not everyone is open to get tested.

Free condoms!

In times like these where there’s a spike in the number of people testing positive with HIV, the best way to keep our status negative is to practice safe sex. Hygiene clinics and health centers are some of the places you can get free condoms and lube. And of course, you can go to any LoveYourself clinics to get them. While you’re there, might as well get tested and know your status.