GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/21 December) — With the confirmed Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) cases here now at 51, local health authorities warned on Friday that around a thousand more in the area may have already been infected and were now possible carriers of the deadly disease.
Dr. Mely Lastimoso, coordinator of the City Integrated Health Services Office’s (CIHSO) social hygiene clinic, said studies showed that a positive case of HIV — the disease that causes the acquired immune
deficiency syndrome or AIDS — could potentially infect or spread to 30 more in due time.
“So for every person who tested positive of HIV, there could be 30 more similar cases out there that we have not yet seen,” she said.
Since the city’s total HIV incidence already reached 51, Lastimoso said they should be looking for at least a thousand more infections at the minimum.
The official said that in the last three weeks, four more local residents have turned out positive of HIV based on the initial screening conducted by the social hygiene clinic.
She said the screened blood samples were already sent to the Department of Health’s (DOH) STD (sexually-transmitted diseases)/AIDS Cooperative Central Laboratory in Manila for confirmatory tests.
In late November, Lastimoso confirmed that a teenage male was tested positive of suspected HIV 2 strain, which is considered relatively uncommon and was known to be concentrated in West Africa as cited by a medical reference website.
Data from the CIHSO showed that the number of confirmed HIV infections in the city this year has already reached 23 and with two to three cases found each week since last month.
It said 15 cases have already developed into “full-blown” AIDS.
Most of the confirmed HIV/AIDS in the city were found among male professionals who were engaged in “risky sexual behaviors.”
They include gays, bisexuals, men who have sex with men or MSMs and others who engage in unprotected sex and with multiple partners.
“As of the moment, the country is already experiencing an epidemic of HIV based on the DOH’s assessment. So far, the positive cases have not dropped but even continued to increase,” Lastimoso said.
The official said their office will continue to find the other HIV carriers in the city so they could provide them with proper treatment.
The CIHSO earlier stepped up its campaign for voluntary HIV testing among residents as part of their efforts to help curb the spread of the disease.
The city government has been offering free HIV/AIDS screening, which are done free and confidential, through the social hygiene clinic.
Lastimoso said HIV patients may avail of antiretroviral drugs, which are being offered free by the DOH, for treatment.
In some countries, she said the use of antiretroviral drugs has helped effectively lower the incidence of HIV infection to about one percent and eventually stabilized the detected cases. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)