Medical Perspectives | Others

July 30, 2021

The impact of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) on human lives continues, with the Philippines registering an estimated 68,000 adults and children living with HIV/AIDS, according to UNAIDS 2017 figures.[1] Of these, around 30% or 20,000 are not aware or know of their status as HIV or AIDS affected.


The number of people who live with HIV/AIDS around the world is recorded as 36.9 million, as per 2017 figures from amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research.[2] The breakdown of the 36.9 million people who are living with AIDS is skewed towards adults (35.1 million) with 1.8 million children less than 15 years of age having to cope with the disease.


Since the discovery of HIV/AIDS in 1981, the global community has witnessed the rapid spread of the disease, even reaching pandemic levels in 2004. The CDC describes HIV/AIDS as follows:

HIV is a virus spread through certain body fluids that attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the CD4 cells, often called T cells. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease. These special cells help the immune system fight off infections. Untreated, HIV reduces the number of CD4 cells (T cells) in the body. This damage to the immune system makes it harder and harder for the body to fight off infections and some other diseases. Opportunistic infections or cancers take advantage of a very weak immune system and signal that the person has AIDS.[3]


To get a clear grasp of the global impact, here are more facts and figures:[4]


  • Access to therapy. In 2017, 21.7 million HIV-infected persons were accessing antiretroviral therapy.
  • AIDS-related deaths. The number of people all over the world who have contracted HIV is pegged at 77.3 million. Of these, 46% or 35.4 million have died from illnesses related to AIDS.
    • Impact on children. The number of children who have lost parents to the disease is estimated to be more than 17 million.
  • Lower death rates. The rate from AIDS-related deaths has been lowered by 51% since 2004 when 1.9 million deaths were recorded. In 2017, the number of deaths from AIDS was around 940,000.
  • Risk levels. The levels of risk of acquiring HIV are as follows:
    • 27 times higher among men who have sex with men
    • 23 times higher among people who inject drugs
    • 13 times higher for female sex workers
    • 13 times higher for transgender women
  • Lower rate of new infections. Since a high of 3.4 million new infections in 1996, the number has been reduced by 47%, down to 1.8 million new infections in 2017.
  • Asia-Pacific data. Some 5.2 million people were living with HIV in 2017, of which 2.7 million were accessing treatment. There were 170,000 recorded AIDS-related deaths in the region in 2017.


While the medical community continues to search for the cure for HIV/AIDS, medical care and antiretroviral therapy or ART treatment is available for HIV-affected individuals. This treatment is able “to reduce the amount of HIV in the blood” which then allows the body’s immune cells to get back to normal levels.


Information and awareness about HIV/AIDS is a major step to addressing the global problem. Spread the word about what HIV/AIDS is all about and how to avoid being affected. Being informed is the most basic level of protection.


[1] HIV and AIDS Data Hub [n.d.]. Country Factsheets PHILIPPINES. Retrieved from

[2] [2018, August]. Statistics: Worldwide. Retrieved from

[3] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [2019, April]. About HIV/AIDS. Retrieved from

[4] [2018, June]. Global HIV & AIDS statistics – 2018 fact sheet. Retrieved from

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