GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 27 Aug) – Health personnel in South Cotabato province have detected 98 new cases of the human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) in the last eight months.
John Codilla, HIV/AIDS focal person of the South Cotabato Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO), said Thursday the additional HIV cases were found during the series of testing activities conducted by their office since January.
He said the new HIV/AIDS cases have so far brought the total cumulative incidence in the province to 317.
As of the end of 2014, the IPHO and the Department of Health (DOH) central office listed the disease incidence in the province at a total of 219.
During the first quarter of the year, Codilla said they detected and confirmed at least 35 new HIV cases.
He said 15 more were added to the list as a result of the conduct of the National HIV Testing Week in the province in the second week of May.
From June to the second week of August, he said they found an additional 48 new HIV/AIDS cases.
“In June alone, we were able to confirm 31 new infections. That’s the highest so far that we detected in a month,” Codilla said.
The official said the 98 new cases do not include the eight suspected infections that they found during the week-long HIV testing marathon conducted by their office.
Codilla said the eight new HIV infections, seven of whom were males, emerged from among the 688 residents who volunteered to undergo screening or tests during the testing marathon last Aug. 17 to 23.
“Their blood samples initially came out reactive so we immediately submitted them for confirmatory tests,” he said.
The confirmatory tests are being conducted by the DOH’s Sexually-Transmitted Diseases/AIDS Cooperative Central Laboratory in Manila, he said.
Codilla said they immediately recommended the new HIV patients to undergo antiretroviral (ARV) treatment and counseling.
“Our focus this time is the immediate treatment of the patients. When we find a person reactive, we will immediately proceed to treatment,” he said.
He said the ARV treatment is now being offered by the IPHO through its HIV/AIDS Core Team Clinic at the South Cotabato Provincial Hospital in Koronadal City.
He said the clinic, which opened last June, is manned by two regular doctors, two nurses as well some counselors.
It presently caters to 60 patients or “people living with HIV.”
Prior to its opening, HIV/AIDS patients in the area had to travel to the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City to avail of the ARV treatment.
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.