10 HIV cases in Surigao Norte from Jan-Sept

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/17 December) — At least 10 people were found positive of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in Surigao del Norte from January to September this year, a health official say.

Jessica I. Nepomuceno, program coordinator of the Sexually Transmitted Infections /HIV/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) program of the City Health Office said health officials expressed alarm over the rising number of persons with the dreaded disease.

Nepomuceno, however, could not say from which municipalities the HIV patients came from.

“We have 1 person per month, it’s alarming,” she told MindaNews yesterday at the City Health Office.

She said the figure does not include the persons who tested positive at their laboratory since the findings on them need to be confirmed in Manila.

She added the confirmatory tests were being done at the Sexually Transmitted Disease-HIV Cooperative Central Laboratory of San Lazaro Hospital.

Early in 2014, one person from Dapa town tested positive. Two others from Gigaquit town and Surigao City were also found to have the disease.

Nepomuceno said they discovered two new additional HIV patients this year in Surigao City. Both of them are male students at a local college.

She said two persons also tested positive of HIV at the Caraga Regional Hospital this year.

She said 96 percent of HIV cases were found on males and only 4% are found on females, and the disease is prevalent in males having sex with males.

“Majority of these are homosexuals,” she added.

“Having risky behavior is among the common factors why they got inflected with it,” she said.

Elvin Francisco, peer educator on HIV in Surigao City said they are helping persons with HIV to combat the stigma.

“Stigma kills faster than the disease. Some of them would commit suicide and we are helping them to combat this problem because most of them don’t know what to do,” he said.

He said he told the HIV patients not to engage in risky behavior because they could infect others.

Francisco is the current president of Surigao Gay Association (SUGA) and has conducted campaigns on HIV/AIDS among members and non-members alike.

Dr. Romulo Ybiernas, a private doctor in Dinagat has been actively campaigning on HIV/AIDS awareness.

“I keep telling my friends on safe sex methods,” he said.

He added people should not be afraid to undergo HIV testing and urged them to avail of the free HIV test at the City Health Office. (Roel Catoto/MindaNews)