GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/12 November) — Health authorities here have expressed alarm over the increasing number of young professionals in the city who were getting infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Dr. Mely Lastimoso, coordinator of the City Health Office’s (CHO) Social Hygiene Clinic, raised such concerned on Wednesday as she disclosed that seven more residents have turned out positive of HIV in the last three weeks, bringing the total incidence in the area to 168.
As of the third week of October, the CHO reported a total of 161 confirmed local cases of HIV, which causes the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
Lastimoso said five of the cases, which involved three males and two females, were found during the series of HIV screening conducted by their office last week.
She said the results were eventually affirmed by confirmatory tests conducted by the Department of Health’s (DOH) Sexually-Transmitted Diseases (STD)/AIDS Cooperative Central Laboratory (SACCL) in Manila.
“Our new cases all involved young professionals and that has been the trend these past months,” she said in an interview over TV Patrol Socksargen.
Lastimoso said some of the latest cases involved new college graduates who were trying to find work.
There was a case wherein a job applicant for an overseas placement turned out positive of HIV during a mandatory test, she said.
She said there were others who already arrived at their overseas assignments but were deported after yielding positive of the disease.
“They were deprived of their ambitions and life goals, and they eventually become frustrated and demoralized. So it’s really difficult (for them),” she said.
Lastimoso urged residents to take the free HIV screening being offered by the office so they would be aware of their status for the disease.
For those of who have been tested negative, she said they should take extra efforts to maintain such status.
“If you love yourself and have bright plans ahead or the future, then you should not take the risk of getting infected with HIV,” she said.
Lastimoso said that for those who are positive of HIV, they have no other choice but to avail of the free maintenance or anti-retroviral (ARV) drug treatment being offered by the government.
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 has helped effectively lower the incidence of HIV infection to about one percent and eventually stabilized the detected cases.
As of December last year, the CHO already documented a total of 129 seropositive cases of HIV in the city.
The area’s HIV/AIDS cases, which were detected through screened blood serum, involve 99 males and 30 females.
A total of 29 persons with AIDS – 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 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. (MindaNews)