GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 7 Oct) – Health authorities have confirmed nine new infections of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) here as they warned that more cases could emerge in the coming weeks.
Dr. Mely Lastimoso, coordinator of the City Health Office’s (CHO) Social Hygiene Clinic, said the additional HIV cases have so far brought the total incidence in the city to 159, which increased by 12 in less than a month.
She said the nine new cases of HIV, which causes the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), were found among the samples that they submitted for confirmatory tests in the last two weeks.
Blood samples taken by accredited HIV testing facilities that turn out reactive during initial screening are sent to the Department of Health’s (DOH) Sexually-Transmitted Diseases (STD)/AIDS Cooperative Central Laboratory (SACCL) in Manila and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Alabang, Muntinlupa City for confirmation.
SACCL handles the HIV confirmatory tests for individual samples and the RITM for blood units.
The results are usually released after 10 days or around two weeks following the submission of the screened samples.
Citing results of the confirmatory tests, Lastimoso said the new cases involved professionals, mostly males.
She said the youngest found to be HIV positive was a 24-year-old male and all of them have had sexual partners and have risky sexual behavior.
“These are young professionals who are within the productive cycle of their lives,” she said in an interview over TV Patrol Socsksargen.
In early September, CHO confirmed three new cases of HIV that then brought the disease incidence in the area to 150.
As of December last year, the CHO already documented a total of 129 seropositive cases of HIV in the city.
Of these, a total of 29 persons – comprising 7 females and 22 males – have already succumbed in the last three years to various complications caused by the disease.
Most of the confirmed HIV/AIDS cases in the city were found among male professionals in the 22 to 25 age bracket who have risky sexual behaviors.
They include gays, bisexuals, men who have sex with men (MSMs) and others who engage in unprotected sex and with multiple partners.
Lastimoso said most of the persons with HIV in the city are currently undergoing 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.
“We’re happy that they are accessing these services, which will eventually help minimize the disease’s transmission,” she said.
Lastimoso said that aside from local residents, they had detected positive HIV cases from nearby provinces of Sarangani and South Cotabato.
She added that most of those found positive are undergoing treatment at the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City, which is the DOH’s designated treatment hub for people with HIV/AIDS in southern and central Mindanao.