GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 26 June) — Fifteen more residents of South Cotabato province have tested positive of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), bringing the total incidence in the area to 269.
Dr. Rogelio Aturdido Jr., South Cotabato Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO) chief, said the new HIV cases were detected from among 800 local residents who volunteered during the National HIV Testing Week on May 11 to 15.
He said 15 of those who availed of the test turned out positive of HIV based on the confirmatory tests conducted by the Department of Health’s Sexually Transmitted Diseases/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (STD/AIDS) Cooperative Central Laboratory in Manila, he said.
“Most of the new HIV cases involve males” engaged in “risky sexual behaviors,” Aturdido said in a media forum in Koronadal City.
Prior to the National HIV Testing Week, the IPHO already recorded a total of 254 HIV cases in the area. HIV causes the deadly AIDS.
They include gays, bisexuals, men who have sex with men or MSMs and others who engage in unprotected sex and with multiple partners.
Aturdido said they expect the number of HIV cases in the area to increase in the coming weeks as they have yet to include in their database those who were tested outside the province and turned out positive.
He said these results will be updated through the DOH’s National HIV/AIDS Registry.
The official said the 15 new HIV patients are now undergoing antiretroviral treatment (ARV) at the South Cotabato Provincial Hospital in Koronadal City.
He said they were able to arrange with the DOH to allow the treatment of the patients in the area instead of going to the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City.
“We already requested the DOH to establish a treatment hub in the region due to the increasing HIV cases in the province and the neighboring areas,” he said.
At the provincial hospital, he said the subsidized HIV testing costs P3,000 but the ARV treatment is given for free.
“It’s free as of now but we fear that it might not be the case in the future,” Aturdido said.
The ARV 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. (Analiz Cabrido / MindaNews contributor)