14 new HIV cases in South Cotabato

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/26 Nov.) — Health authorities in South Cotabato province have expressed alarm over the rising incidence of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection in the area as 14 more cases were added to its list in the last three weeks.

Dr. Rogelio Aturdido Jr., South Cotabato provincial health officer, said their latest monitoring showed that the area’s total HIV infections already reached 45 cases and they expect the figures to even increase in the coming weeks.

Citing latest data from the Integrated Provincial Health Office’s (IPHO) epidemiology and surveillance unit, the official said the new HIV infections were found based on separate screenings conducted in this city and in Cotabato City.

The province’s incidence of HIV, which causes deadly Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is up by 14 from the 31 cases recorded by the IPHO as of the end of October, he said.

Aturdido said a significant number involved individuals who had engaged in risky sexual behavior, among them unprotected sexual contacts among “men who were having sex with men” or MSM.

He said five of the victims have died in the last three years due to complications caused by the disease.

“We have 37 patients currently seeking treatment at the SPMC (Southern Philippines Medical Center) in Davao City,” he said in a statement.

The HIV victims are specifically undergoing maintenance or antiretroviral drug (ARV) treatment at the SPMC, which is the Department of Health’s designated treatment hub for HIV/AIDS victims from southern and southwestern Mindanao, he said.

ARV drug treatment 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 ARV drugs have helped effectively lower the incidence of HIV infection to about one percent and eventually stabilized the detected cases.

Owing to this, Aturdido said they are pushing for the creation of a special body that will spearhead efforts to curb the rising incidence of HIV in the area.

He said they proposed for such move to properly address the continuing spread of HIV within the province’s 10 towns and lone city.

Dubbed Provincial HIV-AIDS Council, he said the proposed body will mainly lead various local campaigns on the disease, particularly in properly informing the public about it.

“The number of HIV/AIDS victims in South Cotabato has been increasing and this has to stop,” Aturdido added. (MindaNews)