GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/21 May) — Around 50 residents in this city have been confirmed to be suffering from full-blown Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and more cases could be added to the list in the coming months, a local health official said.
Dr. Mely Lastimoso, coordinator of the City Integrated Health Services Office’s (CIHSO) Social Hygiene Clinic, said on Tuesday that 22 more local residents have tested positive in the last four months for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), with a number of cases already in the advanced stage or have developed into AIDS.
She said the newly-detected infections, three of which were confirmed in the last two weeks, have so far brought the number of HIV/AIDS cases in the city to 77.
“To date, we already have 77 (cases) and we are looking for more,” Lastimoso said.
At the end of 2012, CIHSO records showed that the city’s confirmed cases of HIV — the disease that causes the deadly AIDS — have already reached 55.
Last year alone, a total of 27 HIV cases were confirmed by the CIHSO through its free screening or testing program.
CIHSO said most of the confirmed HIV/AIDS cases in the city were found among male professionals in the 22 to 25 age bracket 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.
Of the confirmed cases, Lastimoso said 50 have already progressed to full-blown AIDS while “only less than 20” were in the HIV stage.
She explained that patients under the HIV stage were already infected with the virus but have not yet exhibited any signs and symptoms.
Lastimoso said HIV patients may still be given maintenance or antiretroviral drug treatment, which mainly stops the multiplication of the infected person’s viral load and eventually prevents them from further spreading the disease.
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.
On the other hand, patients who already have AIDS usually exhibit severe disease complications involving cases of pneumonia, skin infections and allergies as well as tuberculosis, she said.
“Tuberculosis is the most common complication that affects persons or patients with AIDS,” Lastimoso said.
Lastimoso appealed anew to local residents, especially those who had engaged in risky sexual activities in the past, to undergo voluntary HIV testing.
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.
The Social Hygiene Clinic conducts the initial HIV screening and later submits the collected samples to the Department of Health’s (DOH) STD (sexually-transmitted diseases)/AIDS Cooperative Central Laboratory in Manila for confirmatory tests.
Lastimoso said it’s vital for potential patients to determine their HIV status early so they could immediately access the free treatment offered by the government.
“Most of the patients who seek our help were those who already have AIDS and it’s usually too late for us to intervene with their situation,” she said.
Lastimoso said that with the city’s HIV cases already reaching 77, there could be about a thousand more cases that remain undetected in the area.
She said studies showed that a positive case of HIV could potentially infect or spread to 30 more in due time.
“Our estimate is that we have almost a thousand undetected cases out there and we’re continually looking for them,” she added. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)