GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/21 July) — The number of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cases in the city has already reached 145 as of Monday but local health authorities said there could be more undetected infections in the area.
Dr. Mely Lastimoso, coordinator of the City Health Office’s (CHO) Social Hygiene Clinic, said they have recorded 16 more cases of HIV in the city in the last seven months based on the screening and confirmatory tests conducted by their office and the Department of Health (DOH).
She said among the latest cases involved students and young professionals who have “risky sexual behavior.”
The list included a member of the city’s business sector, she said.
“I think there are more (undetected cases out there). It’s really important for us to find them so they can get proper treatment and care,” Lastimoso said in an interview over TV Patrol Socsksargen.
As of December last year, the CHO already documented a total of 129 seropositive cases of HIV, which causes the deadly Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), the in the city.
The area’s HIV/AIDS cases, which were detected through screened blood serum, involve 99 males and 30 females.
A total of 29 victims comprising 7 females and 22 males have already succumbed in the last three years to various complications caused by the disease.
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.
Lastimoso said their campaign against the disease remained focused on finding more possible cases through their free HIV screening program.
The clinic conducts the initial HIV screening and then submits the samples to the Department of Health’s (DOH) STD (sexually-transmitted diseases)/AIDS Cooperative Central Laboratory in Manila for confirmatory tests.
For those found positive of HIV, she said they could avail of the national government’s care and support programs as well as free treatment.
Lastimoso said the DOH provides HIV patients with 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.
“It could prolong the lives of our patients and allow them to live normal lives,” Lastimoso said.
In Mindanao, the DOH has designated the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City as treatment hub for HIV/AIDS. (MindaNews)