2 new AIDS cases in GenSan

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/16 May) – Health authorities here confirmed over the weekend at least two new positive cases of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV infection, bringing the total disease incidence in the city to 28.

Dr. Mely Lastimoso, coordinator of the City Integrated Health Services Office’s (CIHSO) Social Hygiene Clinic, said a local fisherman and his wife have tested positive of the disease based on the HIV/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) screening and confirmatory tests conducted by their office and the Department of Health (DOH) central office.

She said the couple, who were aged 27 and 28 years old, earlier sought assistance from their office and volunteered to undergo the tests.

“This is quite alarming because this is so far the third positive HIV/AIDS case here that involved family members or (married) couples and children,” Lastimoso said.

Of the 28 persons from the city that were tested positive of HIV/AIDS, the Social Hygiene Clinic noted that 22 were males and six were females.

Since last year alone, the clinic already confirmed at least seven new HIV/AIDS cases, five of which were all confirmed last year and affected gays, bisexuals and other men who have sex with men or MSM.

Cris Lopera, executive director of advocacy group Shine Foundation, earlier said that most of the confirmed HIV/AIDS cases were found among MSMs as they comprise the bulk of the suspected patients who have so far sought help and submitted themselves for testing.

He said the MSMs were mainly targeted for the HIV/AIDS tests based on their “risky” sexual behavior.

Aside from MSMs, Lastimoso said persons who have multiple sexual partners and don’t usually use protection like condoms were considered at high risk of getting infected with the various
sexually-transmitted diseases and the deadly virus.

She said residents employed in the city’s fishing sector, which also operates overseas, were among those identified at high risk of getting the disease.

Glen Espanola, local coordinator of the Indigenous Leader Outreach Model (ILOM), said among the “risky behaviors” that may also cause the transmission of HIV/AIDS is the common practice of sharing needles among drug users.

He said they have been closely watching users of intravenous drug Novaine for the possibility of getting infected with the disease through needle-sharing.

ILOM was earlier adopted by the city and local non-government groups to help address the need to prevent HIV and sexually-transmitted infections among intravenous drug users in the area.

Espanola said they have been conducting community-level monitoring and education campaign among Novaine users regarding the risks of HIV/AIDS transmission through the infected needles.

“These persons usually go out at night and we identified and already have access to some of them,” he said.

Meantime, Lastimoso advised anew suspected HIVAIDS patients to immediately seek help from their office for proper confirmation and handling of the disease.

She said the city’s HIV screening and testing program, which is supported by the Global Fund, remain free of charge and are done in highly confidential manner.

Lastimoso said persons who would be found positive of HIV may also avail of the free maintenance treatment offered by the program. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)