GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/24 December) — Health personnel in South Cotabato province have recorded nine confirmed deaths in the area this year due to the disease complications triggered by the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
John Codilla, focal person for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)/AIDS of the South Cotabato of the Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO), said Tuesday the nine fatalities were among the 53 new HIV/AIDS cases that emerged in the area from January to September this year.
He said the nine deaths all involved males who were already suffering from full-blown AIDS and the late stages of the disease when they submitted themselves to testing.
“By the time their results came out, it was too late for them to undergo treatment as the disease already progressed to the end stages,” he said in a media forum in Koronadal City.
Three deaths were recorded in Sto. Nino town; two each in Koronadal City and Polomolok town; and, one each in Tantangan and Surallah towns.
The victims died of severe complications of “opportunistic infections” or diseases like tuberculosis, pneumonia and Kaposi’s sarcoma, which is a cancer that develops from the cells that line the lymph or blood vessels.
Of the 53 new cases, Codilla said 13 were already full-blown AIDS while 40 were asymptomatic HIV.
He said most of these cases were detected by the IPHO’s HIV screening and testing center based in Koronadal City later confirmed by the Department of Health’s Sexually-Transmitted Diseases (STD)/AIDS Cooperative Central Laboratory (SACCL) in Manila.
A total of 48 cases involved males, 11 of whom were former Overseas Filipino Workers, he said.
Codilla said 25 of the new HIV/AIDS victims were aged 25 to 34 years-old and 16 were within the 15 to 24 years-old age range.
He said the youngest victim was aged 15 years-old and among the latest cases involved two male students of a university in Koronadal City.
“There has been an increasing trend in terms of (HIV/AIDS) infection among young professionals or those within the productive ages,” he said.
With the detection of the 53 new HIV/AIDS, Codilla said the province’s disease incidence now stands at a total of 194.
He said 184 of these cases were only recorded from 2010 up to the present.
“So far, we’ve been detecting an average of one case every week and we receive inquiries for screening and testing on a daily basis,” he said.
Dr. Rogelio Aturdido Jr., IPHO chief, attributed the rise in confirmed HIV/AIDS cases in the province to the increasing awareness among various vulnerable sectors.
“Our current rate of HIV/AIDS detection is quite alarming but were also looking at it as a positive sign that our awareness campaigns and calls for voluntary testing have been gaining ground,” he said.
He said they consider the 194 confirmed cases in the province as just the “tip of the ice berg.”
“We expect to detect more cases in the coming months as more people are now aware of it and submitting themselves to testing,” he said.
Aturdido said the IPHO has a special unit that conducts HIV/AIDS testing and counselling for free and in confidential manner.
Those found positive are immediately referred by the IPHO to the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) in Davao City to undergo maintenance or antiretroviral drug treatment.
Antiretroviral 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 antiretroviral drugs has helped effectively lower the incidence of HIV infection to about one percent and eventually stabilized the detected cases.
Aturdido said 52 of the HIV/AIDS victims are currently receiving antiretroviral from the SPMC, which is the DOH’s main treatment hub for the disease in southern and central Mindanao. (MindaNews)