28 HIV-AIDS cases in Gensan; none involve sex workers

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/17 May) — Despite the nature of their work commercial sex workers in General Santos City have so far been free of the dreaded human immunodeficiency virus- acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV-AIDS), according to Dr. Mely Lastimoso of the City Integrated Health Services Office.

Lastimoso, however, qualified that only those commercial workers who voluntarily submit themselves to testing as well as those included in the mandatory testing are free from the life threatening infectious disease.

She added that she cannot vouch for freelance sex workers who were not covered by their monitoring program.

Lastimoso revealed that they have 28 cases of active HIV-AIDS patients, up by five from last year.

She said most of the carriers of the disease are seafarers and fishermen although several professionals, including two nurses (a male and a female), are also reportedly infected with HIV, an infectious disease which could lead to full blown AIDS .

The virus interferes with the body’s ability to produce anti-bodies which makes patients vulnerable to infection.

“Surprisingly,” Lastimoso said, “a handful of HIV infected cases in General Santos City involve professionals.”

This, she said, has shattered the traditional belief that HIV-AIDS only infects sex workers and homosexuals.

Lastimoso also confirmed that a well known businessman who died two years ago was confirmed to have acquired the virus. She declined to identify the victim.

The deadly virus is acquired through transfer of body fluids and sharing of intravenous needles, a practice common among illegal drugs users.

Since the city health office began monitoring HIV-AIDS cases in the city, at least five patients have already died.

Lastimoso said sexually active persons should practice safe sex by using condoms and avoiding high risk partners.

Better still, she said, stick to one partner.

Lastimoso said they have no accurate head count of sex workers in the city.

The city has more than 1,000 sex workers, according to a source.

The same source said some sex workers no longer just converge in one area looking for clients. Some are going high tech using their mobile phones or accessing clients through the internet and social networking sites. (Edwin G. Espejo/MindaNews Contributor)