GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/ 18 January) — Health authorities in South Cotabato province confirmed Friday the death late last month of another human
immunodeficiency virus (HIV) patient in nearby Koronadal City.
Dr. Rogelio Aturdido Jr., South Cotabato Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO) chief, said the female patient died while undergoing treatment at the South Cotabato Provincial Hospital sometime in December due to complications caused by the disease.
He said the patient, who was a resident of Koronadal City, turned out positive of HIV — the disease that causes the deadly Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) — based on the results of the initial and confirmatory tests facilitated by their office.
But the official could not say whether the death of the patient, reportedly once a commercial sex worker, was caused by a full-blown case of AIDS.
“It was a confirmed case of HIV and it even became controversial so I had to make some interventions,” he said in a radio interview.
Health officials in Koronadal City earlier confirmed that a male HIV patient also died at the South Cotabato Provincial Hospital in July last year.
Aturdido admitted that their office is presently monitoring and has recommended for treatment several suspected HIV cases from the area.
He did not cite the exact number of the suspected HIV cases, saying they have yet to undergo confirmatory tests through the Department of Health’s (DOH) STD (sexually-transmitted diseases)/AIDS Cooperative Central Laboratory in Manila.
“Our efforts are presently focused on the identification of the other possible HIV cases through voluntary testing,” he said.
Aturdido said the local government facilitates free HIV tests through its blood testing facility at the provincial hospital.
The official said they are planning to tap purok and barangay officials in the province to help identify the potential HIV cases within their areas.
He said they are specifically targeting current and former Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who might be infected or carrying the disease.
“Rest assured that all these will be done in a confidential manner. All information regarding HIV patients should be treated as confidential as mandated by the government,” he said.
Aturdido said their office is giving special attention to the OFWs due to their exposure to vulnerable environments and areas with significant cases of HIV.
In 2011, Aturdido said a male former OFW who had confirmed HIV infection sought assistance from their office to locate a former male partner from Koronadal City who was also suspected of having been infected with the disease.
But it turned out that the subject, who was also an OFW, had already left then for abroad to resume work, he said.
The IPHO earlier raised concern over the possible increase of HIV cases in the province due to the noted rise of disease infections in this city and the neighboring areas.
Last month, the City Integrated Health Services Office (CIHSO) reported that the area’s confirmed HIV cases already reached 51, with two to three positive cases coming out almost every week.
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. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)