GenSan to conduct campaign amid rising HIV/AIDS cases

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/23 May) — The city government will launch on Friday a series of advocacy and education activities on the deadly human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) in observance of the 30th International AIDS Candlelight Memorial.

Dr. Mely Lastimoso, coordinator of the City Integrated Health Services Office’s (CIHSO) Social Hygiene Clinic, said Thursday the activity will mainly highlight the rising HIV/AIDS cases in the city and the local government’s ongoing efforts to address the problem.

She said they have prepared exhibits and presentations on the area’s HIV/AIDS situation, the city’s initiatives in combating its spread and the experiences of persons afflicted by the disease.

During the event, which will be held at the Robinsons mall here, the official said they will offer free HIV screening for all local residents.

At 3 p.m., she said city officials and concerned groups will lead a candle lighting ceremony “to remember the fallen victims” and remind people about the risks as well as impact of the disease.

“The purpose of the candle lighting (ceremony) is mainly to remember the people who died of AIDS and for us to learn from their experiences,” Lastimoso said.

She said the presentations and discussions will include topics “on how to protect ourselves,” the importance of the HIV tests and the processes involved in availing the free treatment offered by the government.

“We’ll be talking of people who had the disease and especially look at how they died. We call that the “killed presentation,” she said.

Lastimoso encouraged residents, especially those who engaged in risky sexual behavior, to take part in their free HIV screening.

“The tests or screening are free of any charges and the results will be treated as confidential,” she assured.

The city government has been offering free HIV/AIDS screening through the Social Hygiene Clinic as part of its efforts to help curb the spread of the disease in the area.

The clinic conducts the initial HIV screening and later submits the collected samples to the Department of Health’s (DOH) STD (sexually-transmitted diseases)/AIDS Cooperative Central Laboratory in Manila for confirmatory tests.

The CIHSO reported earlier this week that the city’s confirmed HIV cases have so far reached 77, 22 of which were only found this year.

At the end of 2012, CIHSO records showed that the city’s confirmed cases of HIV — the disease that causes the deadly AIDS — have already reached 55.

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

CIHSO said 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.

Of the confirmed cases, Lastimoso said 50 have already progressed to full-blown AIDS while “only less than 20” were in the HIV stage. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)