GENERAL SANTOS CITY — Health personnel in South Cotabato province have recorded 10 new cases of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections in the last four months, bringing the total disease incidence in the area to 156.
John Codilla, focal person for HIV/AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) of the Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO), said the new HIV cases were detected from among 71 residents from the province who volunteered to undergo screening or testing for the disease from January to April this year.
He said they were specifically recorded by Department of Health (DOH)-accredited HIV/AIDS testing centers in the province, this city, Davao and Manila.
“These are all confirmed infections so the DOH immediately recommended the patients to undergo maintenance treatments,” he said in a radio interview.
Citing a report released by the DOH’s National Epidemiology Center, he said eight of the new cases were found last February alone.
For this month, he said nine local residents already availed of their voluntary HIV/AIDS screening program and one of them turned out positive of the disease.
He said the victim had previously tested positive of HIV during a screening in Manila but decided to undergo another test in the area for confirmation.
As of the end of January, Codilla said the disease’s incidence in the province has already reached a total of 146 based on the DOH’s monitoring in the last 10 years.
In November last year, the IPHO confirmed 14 new cases of HIV in the province that then brought the total incidence in the last three years to 45.
Codilla said a significant number involved individuals who had engaged in risky sexual behavior, among them unprotected sexual contacts among “men who were having sex with men” or MSM.
The earliest HIV/AIDs case involved a woman who tested positive in 2003 and all 10 towns and lone city in the province have recorded cases of the disease, he said.
He said the youngest HIV/AIDS victim in the province is a 20 year-old student while they have so far recorded nine fatalities due to complications caused by the disease.
Codilla said 32 of the victims are currently undergoing maintenance or antiretroviral drug (ARV) treatment at the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City, which is the Department of Health’s designated treatment hub for HIV/AIDS victims from southern and southwestern Mindanao.
ARV drug treatment 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 ARV drugs have helped effectively lower the incidence of HIV infection to about one percent and eventually stabilized the detected cases.
Codilla said they have stepped up their awareness campaign against the disease that is mainly focused on encouraging more residents to undergo voluntary HIV screening and testing.
The IPHO maintains a screening facility for HIV/AIDS at the provincial hospital compound in Koronadal City.
The DOH has also accredited the Doctor’s Clinic and Hospital in Koronadal City and the Howard Hubbard Hospital in Polomolok town as HIV/AIDS screening and testing centers.
Codilla said they regularly conduct orientations and seminars regarding the disease in various barangays, secondary schools, colleges and universities within the province’s 10 towns and lone city.
“We have regular radio, television and print media campaigns and we recently tapped the social media to reach out to a wider audience,” he said. (MindaNews)