GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/03 December) — Alarmed by the rising local cases of Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS), the provincial government of South Cotabato is working on the creation of a special body that will spearhead efforts in combatting the disease.
Dr. Rogelio Aturdido Jr., South Cotabato Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO) chief, said they will gather various stakeholders in the province on Thursday to set off the creation of the Provincial HIV/AIDS Council.
He said they will discuss the composition, functions and mechanisms of the council as well as formulate the initial strategies and activities in line with the campaign against the disease.
The establishment of the council was provided for in an ordinance passed recently by the provincial board or Sangguniang Panlalawigan.
The measure was authored by board member Ellen Grace Subere-Albios, who chairs the board’s committee on health.
“The council will mainly lead and coordinate efforts to curb the rising incidence of HIV/AIDS in the province,” Aturdido said.
The official said the council will involve provincial government departments and offices, national government offices based in the area, city and municipal governments, and non-government organizations.
He said the special body will also be tasked to initiate various campaigns in connection with the disease, particularly in properly informing the public about it.
The IPHO said on Tuesday it has recorded nine confirmed deaths in the province this year due to disease complications caused by AIDS.
John Codilla, IPHO’s HIV/AIDS focal person, said the nine fatalities were among the 53 new HIV/AIDS cases that were detected in the area from January to September this year.
Of the 53 new cases, Codilla said 13 were already full-blown AIDS while 40 were asymptomatic HIV.
A total of 48 cases involved males, 11 of whom were former Overseas Filipino Workers. Twenty-five 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.
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.
Aturdido said their campaign is currently focused on encouraging more people, especially those who had engaged in “risky sexual behavior,” to undergo voluntary screening and testing for HIV.
He said that aside from the IPHO, all government or public hospitals and rural health units within the province’s 10 towns and lone city are now capable of conducting HIV/AIDS tests and counseling.
“We have a team that regularly visit our local communities to conduct HIV/AIDS tests and awareness sessions,” he added. (MindaNews)