A recent report by a group of Filipino scientists on a new strain of HIV has been refuted by the local Department Of Health, but not before it was picked up and shared by international media. The original report, delivered by Dr Edsel Salvana of the University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health, warned of an aggressive HIV AE subtype, resistant to drug treatment which had the possibility to fuel a new epidemic.
Dr Salvana suggested this could be to blame for the soaring numbers of new HIV cases reported across the Philippines, with documented statistics on new cases increasing by 140% between the years 2010 and 2016. He stated ‘HIV is not done yet. We cannot think of HIV as a single virus but as a collection of viruses that are evolving, with a new mutation that can possibly set off a new epidemic…We are just a few a few viral mutations away from a resurgence of HIV’.
The story was immediately picked up by global news media, including many outlets catering specifically to the LGBT community, causing what has now proved to be an undue concern.
In a strongly worded response, Philippine Health Secretary Francisco Duque branded the scare ‘fake news’, saying it was not based on trustworthy evidence. He said the Department Of Health had received no information from the World Health Organisation on this supposed new strain, asking news outlets not to jump on the bandwagon in reporting dangerous unconfirmed ‘facts’.
Local HIV advocates joined him in condemning the sensationalised articles, with the head of UNAIDS Philippines, Louie R. Ocampo, stating, ‘The variants of the HIV found in the country have not changed and are similar to the strains of the virus found throughout Asia and in other parts of the world’.
He continued, ‘There is no conclusive evidence that the strains of the virus found in the country are more infectious than other virus variants, nor is there evidence that they are resistant to the current treatment regimens available’.
As yet, there has been no move by many of the news outlets to correct their original reports.
For more information on sexual health in Ireland, check out this interview with Will St Leger of ACT UP Dublin.
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