GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 2 Dec) – Health personnel here are pushing for the detection of more human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) cases as a strategy to curb the rising incidence of the disease in the area.
Dr. Mely Lastimoso, coordinator of the City Health Office’s Social Hygiene Clinic, said they have set anew a series of awareness activities focusing on their free HIV screening program in a bid to encourage more residents to undergo voluntary testing for the disease.
She said the initiative was part of the month-long activities that they have set in observance of the AIDS awareness month.
This year’s observance focuses on the theme: “Getting ZERO: zero new HIV infections; zero Discrimination; zero AIDS-related deaths.”
Lastimoso urged residents, especially those who have had engaged in risky sexual behavior or “had sex with more than one partner at some point in their lives,” to avail of the free HIV screening.
The clinic conducts the initial HIV screening and then submits the samples to the Department of Health’s (DOH) STD (sexually-transmitted diseases)/AIDS Cooperative Central Laboratory in Manila for confirmatory tests.
“We want to detect or identify all those infected with HIV so we can endorse them to proper treatment and stop them from spreading the disease to other people,” she said.
As of Monday, Lastimoso said they have already documented a total of 129 seropositive HIV/AIDS cases in the city.
The area’s HIV/AIDS cases, which were detected through screened blood serum, involve 99 males and 30 females, she said.
She said 29 of the victims, comprising 7 females and 22 males, have already succumbed in the last three years to various complications caused by the disease.
“The increase in positive cases of HIV is indicative of the increase of health seeking behavior, which is also our objective based on the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals,” Lastimoso said in a statement.
She said that with more victims availing of the free HIV maintenance treatment provided by the DOH, the transmission of the disease would eventually be reduced.
“This will help us achieve our goal of zero HIV infections by 2015,” Lastimoso said.
The DOH provides HIV patients with 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.
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.
In Mindanao, the DOH has designated the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City as treatment hub for HIV/AIDS.
The city’s confirmed HIV cases, which has continued to increase in the last three years, reached the 100 mark last September.
As of the second week of July, the Social Hygiene Clinic confirmed that HIV cases in the city had reached 81, 22 of which were detected in the first four months of the year.
At the end of 2012, its records showed 55 confirmed cases of HIV in the area.
Last year alone, a total of 27 HIV cases were confirmed by the clinic through its free screening or testing program.
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.