GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNew/10 July) — Four more residents here have tested positive for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the last five weeks, bringing the total number of cases in the area to 81, a local health official said.
Dr. Mely Lastimoso, coordinator of the City Integrated Health Services Office’s (CIHSO) Social Hygiene Clinic, said the new cases involved “professionals” who volunteered to undergo HIV screening at the clinic.
HIV is a lentivirus or slowly replicating retrovirus that causes the deadly Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), a disease characterized by a progressive failure of the immune system, medical references said.
Lastimoso said the infections were confirmed through tests conducted by the Department of Health’s (DOH) STD (sexually-transmitted diseases)/AIDS Cooperative Central Laboratory in Manila for confirmatory tests.
“For now, we have 81 documented cases. The figure has been increasing mainly because a lot of people have been signing up for the HIV tests and we have existing facilities that offer these services for free,” she said.
The city government earlier stepped up its campaign for voluntary HIV testing among residents as part of their efforts to help curb the spread of the disease.
The HIV/AIDS screening are done free and confidential through the social hygiene clinic, which is located within the city hospital compound.
Lastimoso said that while the number of residents who were availing of the HIV screening and tests have been increasing, many are still unaware of the basic information about the disease and the available government interventions and initiatives.
She said the clinic has been receiving numerous inquiries regarding HIV, the free screening program and other involved processes.
“The awareness level is not yet 100 percent. Some of the calls and text messages that we’ve been receiving were directions for the clinic’s location and some other basic information,” Lastimoso said.
She reiterated that it’s important for potential patients to seek assistance early so they could immediately access the free treatment offered by the government.
HIV patients may still be given maintenance or antiretroviral drug treatment, which mainly stops the multiplication of the infected person’s viral load and eventually prevents them from further spreading the disease, she said.
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.
As of the third week of May, the CIHSO confirmed that HIV/AIDS cases in the city had reached 77, 22 of which were detected in the first four months of the year.
At the end of 2012, CIHSO records showed 55 confirmed cases of HIV in the city.
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. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)