2 graduating college students in GenSan found HIV-positive

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 21 March) – Two graduating college students have been added to the growing list of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) carriers in this city.

Dr. Mely Lastimoso, coordinator of the City Integrated Health Services Office’s (CIHSO) Social Hygiene Clinic, said Thursday the new HIV cases were found based on the results of the initial screening conducted by their office and confirmatory tests by the Department of Health in Manila.

She said they were detected from among local residents who have earlier signed up with the city government’s voluntary HIV testing program.

The two new cases of HIV, which causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), has brought the total number of positive cases in the city to 62, she said.

Such number is seven more than 55 confirmed HIV cases in the city that were recorded by the CIHSO as of the end of 2012.

With the confirmed HIV cases continually increasing since last year, Lastimoso urged anew local residents, especially those who have had engaged in “risky sexual behavior,” to take part in the city’s voluntary HIV screening or testing program.

“Our goal is to identify our HIV patients at the early stage so they can immediately access our maintenance treatment. An early diagnosis is also a good prognosis because that means you can still prolong your life,” she said.

Last year alone, a total of 27 HIV cases were confirmed by the CIHSO through its free screening or testing program.

The city government has been offering HIV/AIDS screening, which are done for free and strictly confidential, through the social hygiene clinic.

The screened blood samples are then sent to the Department of Health’s (DOH) STD (sexually-transmitted diseases)/AIDS Cooperative Central Laboratory in Manila for confirmatory tests.

Most of the confirmed HIV/AIDS cases in the city were found among male professionals in the 22 to 25 age bracket who were 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.

Lastimoso said HIV patients may avail of antiretroviral drugs, which are being offered free by the DOH, for treatment.

In some countries, she said the use of antiretroviral drugs has effectively helped lower the incidence of HIV infection to about one percent, and eventually stabilized the detected cases.

But she said the antiretroviral treatment will only be effective if the HIV infection is detected in its early stages.

“It would be difficult to treat patients who are already in the advanced stages since their bodies might not be able to adjust with the treatment,” she said.

Lastimoso specifically cited cases who already suffer from disease complications or developed comorbidities like cancer and pneumonia.

“The anti-retroviral treatment will no longer be effective of these cases,” she added.  (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)