GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 14 June) – Health authorities in Region 12 have expressed alarm over the rising incidence of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection in the region that already reached 77 confirmed cases.
Jenny Ventura, Department of Health (DOH) Region 12 health education officer, said such figure was based on the results of the initial HIV screening or tests conducted in two DOH-designated testing centers in the region as of the end of May.
Ventura said the testing centers are the Social Hygiene Clinic of the City Integrated Health Services Office (CIHSO) here and the Cotabato Regional and Medical Center (CRMC) in Cotabato City.
The clinic and the CRMC conducts the initial HIV screening and later submits the collected samples to the DOH STD (sexually-transmitted diseases)/AIDS Cooperative Central Laboratory in Manila for confirmatory tests.
“Our latest data showed that we already have 77 HIV cases in Region 12 and in addition to that, we have recorded 13 deaths as a result of the disease,” she said in a radio interview.
The 13 deaths were due to complications of the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), which is the disease caused by HIV.
She did not give further details as to where the confirmed cases, which “accumulated over the years,” came from.
Ventura said the region has no existing HIV/AIDS treatment hub but noted that the DOH has assigned the Social Hygiene Clinic here to provide treatment to patients from the area.
The clinic, which is run by CIHSO personnel, provides HIV patients with free maintenance or antiretroviral drug treatment that mainly stops the multiplication of the infected person’s viral load and eventually prevents them from further spreading the disease.
In some countries, the use of antiretroviral drugs has helped effectively lower the incidence of HIV infection to about one percent and eventually stabilized the detected cases.
Ventura urged residents, especially those who have engaged in risky sexual activities in the past, to undergo voluntary HIV testing.
“(The tests) are necessary for those who have experienced unsafe and unprotected sex with potential HIV carriers,” she said.
The Social Hygiene Clinic here earlier reported that most of the confirmed HIV/AIDS cases that were detected in the city involved 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.
To help stop the spread of the disease, Ventura added that residents should “turn to ABCD,” which is an acronym for one of the DOH’s campaign against HIV/AIDS.
It stands for “abstinence, be faithful, use condoms and don’t use drugs,” she added. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)