GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/05 November) — Health authorities in South Cotabato province confirmed on Tuesday two new cases of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, bringing the disease incidence in the area to 31.
Dr. Rogelio Aturdido Jr., South Cotabato-Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO) chief, said the two additional cases of HIV, the infection that causes the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), were initially detected following a recent screening conducted by their HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) unit.
He said the blood samples taken from the two patients came out positive in the confirmatory tests conducted by the Department of Health’s (DOH) STD (sexually-transmitted diseases)/AIDS Cooperative Central Laboratory in Manila.
The official said five of the area’s 31 confirmed HIV/AIDS victims, who were all detected in the last three years or since 2010, already died due to various complications.
“Our recorded HIV/AIDS cases in the area comprise couples, former overseas workers and male professionals,” he said in a media forum.
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 the IPHO has intensified its advocacy and education activities to control or prevent the disease from further spreading.
The IPHO is presently offering free HIV screening through their HIV/AIDS/STI unit, which hosts one of the two DOH-accredited HIV/AIDS screening facilities within the province, he said.
“It’s important for us to detect these cases early so the victims could immediately avail of the free maintenance treatment offered by the government,” Aturdido said.
The official said half of the remaining 26 HIV victims, who have not yet reached the full-blown stage, are currently undergoing maintenance or antiretroviral drug (ARV) treatment at the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) in Davao City.
SPMC is the DOH’s designated treatment hub for HIV/AIDS victims from southern and southwestern Mindanao, he said.
“We’re currently tracking down the other half as most of them have not returned to our HIV/AIDS/STI unit after being detected with the disease,” 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. (MindaNews)