To commemorate World AIDS Day, U.S. Ambassador MaryKay Carlson led the handover of 86,000 U.S. government-donated HIV viral load testing cartridges valued at Php 85 million ($1.5 million) to strengthen the Philippine government’s HIV treatment program.
“These laboratory tests are further proof that the U.S. government is committed to working alongside the Department of Health (DOH), the community of Filipinos living with HIV, and local governments like Manila City to ensure that people living with HIV in the country have equitable access to a viral load test,” Ambassador Carlson said at the turnover ceremony hosted by the Manila City government on December 1.
“With this donation, we aim to amplify the hopeful message of U equals U: that undetectable is indeed untransmittable,” she added.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, Manila City Councilor for Health Dr. Louisito Chua, DOH Undersecretary Carolina Vidal-Taiño, and members of the people living with HIV (PLHIV) community were also present at the event.
Secured through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), these cartridges will be distributed to HIV treatment hubs and facilities across the Philippines and are expected to cover the country’s viral load testing requirements for all patients undergoing HIV treatment for one year.
“This donation of more than 86,000 viral load cartridges from the United States government will be pivotal to the country’s HIV treatment program,” said Department of Health (DOH) officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire.
“We are filled with so much hope that we will no longer have to lose our loved ones to HIV and that we will be able to carry on with our lives, free from worry and stigma,” Network Plus co-convenor Elena Felix said on behalf of the PLHIV community.
Since December 2020, the U.S. government has provided more than Php 1 billion ($18.2 million) to the Philippine government through PEPFAR to support HIV prevention, case finding, and treatment interventions. This includes a donation of more than 81,000 bottles of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), an HIV-preventive drug that is being distributed by the DOH in more than 50 facilities across Metro Manila, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon. This donation, valued at Php 31.3 million ($552,996), was turned over to the Philippine government in June 2021.
These recent donations signify the U.S. government’s commitment to support the Philippines in addressing supply chain bottlenecks in the procurement of critical commodities in HIV detection and treatment and in achieving the country’s goal to end AIDS by 2030 through evidence-based strategies.