Manila: The Philippine health authorities diagnosed 274 people with new cases of HIV/Aids in February this year, the health department said, adding the new figure represented a 72 per cent rise compared with 159 cases reported in February 2011.

"These are the highest recorded cases so far in the Philippines with a rise of 72 per cent as per the figures provided by the STD/Aids Cooperative Central Laboratory (SACCL)," said the health department.

"Of the 274 new cases, 38 cases were due to needle sharing by drug users; 235 cases due to sexual contact; and one case due to transmission from mother to child," the health department said.

"Of the 235 cases [due to sexual contact], more than half were due to homosexual relations," the health department said.

Of the 274 cases, 24 cases were overseas Filipino workers (OFWs); 126 cases were from the National Capital Region; 45 cases came from other places nationwide, the health department said.

All these figures are alarming because they represent data only from people found in hospitals with HIV/Aids, and from only two sectors (sex workers and OFWs) that the state has allowed to be tested for HIV, the health department said adding that mandatory testing of these sectors began only in 1984.

Information campaign

"It means there are more women and men with HIV/Aids. But these figures are not yet known," said the health department.

Health Secretary Enrique Ona was asked by the presidential palace to implement active prevention of HIV/Aids via an information campaign.

Earlier, Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral was castigated by the Catholic Church when she distributed condoms to couples on Valentine's Day.