DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 12 Aug) – The city’s Reproductive Health and Wellness Center (RHWC) noted a total of 131 new cases of Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (HIV-AIDS) from January to May this year.
Based on the record of RHWC, 116 of the new cases are asymptomatic, or those that show no symptoms yet, while 15 are fully-developed AIDS. This brings the total to 1,226 cases since 1984.
Dr. Jordana Ramiterre, RHWC head, said in an interview that cases are higher among males, which numbered 126, because of their riskier sexual behavior than females.
The age group with the biggest proportion of cases was noted among those aged 25 to 34 with 62 new cases. Next is the 15-24 age group with 46 cases, 35-49 with 18, and 50 older with 5 cases.
Data from January to May 2014 were not available but records showed there were 321 cases last year, 267 were asymptomatic while 54 were AIDS. Still, cases among males were higher with 305 compared to 16 among females.
“The driver of this epidemic is the male-to-male sexual relationship,” Ramiterre said.
Based on the HIV/AIDS and ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP), 20,512 cases were reported from January to April 2015 (19,142 were asymptomatic and 1,370 were AIDS). Of those, 19,495 were males and 1,017 were females.
At this rate, at least 20 new cases had been reported daily during the first quarter of the year.
In April 2015, the Department of Health (DOH) said National Capital Region (NCR) topped the list with the most number of HIV-AIDS cases at 209. Coming in second was Region 4A (Calabarzon) with 102 cases, followed by Region 3 (Central Luzon) with 48 cases, and Region 7 (Central Visayas) with 37.
At this rate, the country might have an average of 20 new cases a day from January to April, which is higher as compared to 17 during the same period last year.
There have been a total of 24,936 HIV-AIDS cases recorded since 1984, the year when the first case of HIV infection was recorded.
Ramiterre said the increase could be attributed to several factors. Among them are the people who engage in sex with multiple partners are becoming more open to avail of the free testing and counseling, and the risky sexual behavior.
“Because of the services that we are giving, promotion of prevention education, free HIV testing, more people are accessing the services,” she said, emphasizing that the age group engaging in sexual activities is getting younger and that the change in sexual behavior is partly blamed on the advent of the Internet.
Ramiterre explained it is important for people who have risky sexual behavior, or those who have multiple sex partners, to have themselves tested because HIV manifest into AIDS from 5 to 10 years.
But for those who are not receiving treatment and have sedentary lifestyle, HIV may develop into AIDS from four to five years.
The virus, she explained, attacks the CD40 cells, the body’s frontline of defense.
“We don’t get illnesses because we have the protection,” Ramiterre said.
However, if a patient fails to receive a retro-viral drug that neutralizes the virus, the risk of developing into a full-blown AIDS is riskier. Once developed, the patient can catch the infections from the environment easily.
In a briefer, HIV is defined as a “virus that attacks the body’s immune system then causes AIDS”. The AIDS, meanwhile, is a “condition characterized by a combination of signs and symptoms caused by HIV. It makes the afflicted individual susceptible to other life threatening infections.”
The RHWC holds clinic-based consultations. In a month, 200 to 300 patients visit the clinic to have themselves tested for HIV-AIDS, although there are patients who are afraid to come out for fear of stigma, if not self-perceived discrimination.
“We want people, if they think they have risky sexual behavior, to come and have themselves tested,” Ramiterre said.