City health office says HIV infection in GenSan rising

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/23 October) — The incidence of Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV infection here has continued to increase in the last several months, with at least a positive case reportedly emerging on a weekly basis.
Dr. Mely Lastimoso, coordinator of the City Integrated Health Services Office’s (CIHSO) Social Hygiene Clinic, said the number of confirmed HIV cases in the city has so far reached 44 or three more from last month’s figures.
She said the new cases of HIV — the disease that causes the deadly Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or AIDS — were found based on the results of the screening conducted by their office and confirmatory tests done by the Department of Health (DOH) central office.
“We’re expecting more positive cases to come out because of the high level of awareness among our vulnerable sectors regarding HIV and the need for them to undergo the tests,” Lastimoso said in an interview with a local television station.
Last month, the CIHSO reported that the total number of confirmed HIV cases in the city already reached 41, 15 of which had already developed into full-blown AIDS.
In late June, the number of AIDS/HIV cases in the city only totaled 32 and with only two new cases recorded by the CIHSO then.
From May 2011 until last June, the confirmed HIV/AIDS cases in the city only increased by four and with the two other cases detected last April.
Lastimoso reiterated that most of the confirmed HIV/AIDS in the city were found among male professionals who are engaged in risky sexual behaviors.
They include gays, bisexuals, men who have sex with men or MSMs and others who engage in unprotected sex and with multiple partners, she said.
“Most of those in the professional level, knowing that they are professionals, just don’t mind the very basic things (about HIV infection). They feel that they already know these things although they actually don’t. So in a way the problem is still about awareness,” Lastimoso said.
She stressed the need for those who have engaged in risky sexual behavior to submit themselves for the HIV/AIDS screening, which are done free and confidential, through the Social Hygiene Clinic, which is based at the CIHSO building inside the city district hospital.
The clinic immediately submits the screened samples to the DOH’s STD (sexually-transmitted diseases)/AIDS Cooperative Central Laboratory in Manila, Lastimoso said.
“There could be individuals out there who are already HIV positive but don’t know that they’re infected and have not sought any treatment.
They could infect other individuals and eventually cause the spread of the disease to more people. So it’s a chain reaction,” she said.
The official pointed out that those who turn out positive of the disease will immediately be given access to treatment and other services that are being offered free by the government.
She said they encountered cases wherein some infected individuals who have not received treatment eventually ended up in hospitals and with the disease already in advanced stage.
“In the long run, we’ll just see them when they’re already in a hospital bed suffering from so many complications. These cases are very difficult to treat,” Lastimoso said. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)