GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/4 July) – Health authorities here confirmed Wednesday two new positive cases of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV, bringing the disease incidence in the area to 32.
Dr. Mely Lastimoso, coordinator of the City Integrated Health Services Office’s (CIHSO) Social Hygiene Clinic, said two male professionals based in the city have tested positive of the disease based on results of the confirmatory tests released late last month by the Department of Health (DOH) central office.
She said the two patients initially tested positive of the disease during the initial screening conducted by their office for possible infection of HIV – the disease that causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or AIDS.
Lastimoso said the victims had sought help from their office and voluntarily signified to undergo the HIV/AIDS screening and confirmatory tests.
“As of today we have 32 documented HIV/AIDS cases in the city and this is quite alarming considering that the number of new infections here has steadily grown these past several years,” she said.
Since May last year, the confirmed HIV/AIDS cases in the city increased by four and with the two other cases only detected last April.
Of the 32 confirmed and documented HIV/AIDS cases in the city, 11 were still in the HIV stage while the rest have developed into full-blown AIDS.
Last year, the CIHSO confirmed five new HIV/AIDS cases, which involved gays, bisexuals and other men who have sex with men or MSM.
In 2011, the DOH had registered a total of 2,349 HIV cases all over the country – 94 of which have progressed into AIDS.
Of those cases, a total of 1,842 cases were transmitted by men having unprotected sex with men and 110 involved injection drug use. This prompted the DOH to re-focus the campaign to these sectors and the commercial sex workers.
HIV/AIDS advocacy group Shine Foundation had noted that most of the confirmed HIV/AIDS cases in the area were found among MSMs as they comprise the bulk of the suspected patients who have so far sought help and submitted themselves for testing.
It said the MSMs were mainly targeted for the HIV/AIDS tests based on their “risky” sexual behavior.
The DOH earlier identified the city as among the country’s potential HIV/AIDS hotspots due to the significant number of foreign cargo vessels that regularly dock at the Makar Wharf here and the increasing number of local fishermen who venture into overseas fishing operations.
Lastimoso said the increase in HIV/AIDS cases in the city these past years could be attributed to the increasing number of persons who have “risky sexual behavior,” which includes having multiple sexual partners and engagement in unprotected sex.
She said the CIHSO has been aggressively campaigning for increased awareness among residents, especially those considered in the vulnerable sectors, on the prevention aspect of HIV/AIDS.
Lastimoso said that through the Social Hygiene Clinic, which is based at the CIHSO building inside the city district hospital, the local government offers “free, confidential” screening for HIV/AIDS.
She said that for those who turn out positive of the disease, the CIHSO and the DOH immediately provides a package of services that includes counseling and availment of some treatment drugs for the disease’s complications.
She added that they may also avail of the free maintenance treatment offered by the clinic through its partnership with the Global Fund. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)