GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/16 August)– A 24 year-old mother and her newborn baby have been added to the growing list of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) victims here.
Dr. Mely Lastimoso, coordinator of the City Integrated Health Services Office’s (CIHSO) social hygiene clinic, said Friday the two were among the 10 new cases of HIV that were detected in the city in the last three weeks.
She said the additional cases of HIV, the infection that causes the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), were confirmed through tests conducted by the Department of Health’s STD (sexually-transmitted diseases)/AIDS Cooperative Central Laboratory in Manila.
The new HIV cases have so far brought the total number of infections in the city to 91, around 50 of which have already developed to full-blown AIDS.
Five of the new cases were affirmed by the confirmatory test results that came out in late July while the other five were based on the test results released earlier this week.
“Our data has been increasing because more residents have been submitting themselves voluntarily to undergo the HIV tests,” Lastimoso said in an interview over TV Patrol Socsksargen.
The official said the latest mother-to-child HIV transmission was the fourth case that they recorded in the city since 2001.
She said the young mother, who has two other children, was reportedly infected by her “philandering” husband.
Lastimoso said they are presently monitoring the condition of the mother, her newborn baby and other members of the family.
“We have to take care of the mother as well as the baby. That includes also the husband and the other children,” she said.
Lastimoso said the new HIV patients will 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, the use of antiretroviral drugs has helped effectively lower the incidence of HIV infection to about one percent and eventually stabilized the detected cases.
She urged residents, especially those who have engaged in risky sexual behavior or “had sex with more than one partner at some point in their lives,” to undergo the tests so they would know their health status.
Lastimoso said it’s also important for pregnant women to undergo HIV tests so they can be treated early if they’re infected.
She said a pregnant mother who is HIV-positive may not infect the baby in her womb if she undergoes early antiretroviral treatment.
“The good thing about the program is that all individuals who turn out positive will immediately be subjected to maintenance treatment. That way, their lives could be prolonged and they can even live normally with their families,” she said.
Through the program, Lastimoso said they’re hoping to eventually minimize or lessen the cases of new HIV infections in the area.
“We’re targeting that by 2015, we will have no new HIV infections here,” she said.
As of the second week of July, the CIHSO confirmed that HIV cases in the city had reached 81, 22 of which were detected in the first four months of the year.
At the end of 2012, CIHSO records showed 55 confirmed cases of HIV in the city.
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. (Allen Estabillo/MindaNews)