City continues to monitor HIV-AIDS-A A +A
By JM Agreda
Friday, May 24, 2013
HEALTH officials will intensify monitoring the spread of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in the city with the continued decline of recorded cases.
Dr. Celia Flor Brillantes, of the Social Hygiene Clinic, said they will start their surveillance in May 27 to get the real picture of HIV infections among various sectors particularly among Men Having Sex with Men (MSM) where most of the recent infections in the city emanate.
While they perceive the low cases of HIV infections in the city as a positive result of their campaign to monitor night establishments in the city, Brillantes said this is not reason to be complacent as national statistics show at least two individuals are infected by HIV daily.
In the city, at least 51 HIV positive cases were recorded since 1992 which resulted to 18 deaths from Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome-related (Aids) complications.
Majority of HIV positive patients in the city are males numbering 36 while 15 females were also infected.
Since 2011, where they recorded at least eight individuals mostly MSMs to have been infected by HIV, the number of infected individuals in the city dwindled to one case for 2012 and another one infected individual this 2013.
Brilliants said the new cases also come from the MSM group and has been discovered through blood screening conducted after the patient donated blood.
She said the youngest cases they have come from the MSM group aged 17 and 19 years old.
The health official added this only proves there is a probability that other people who have sexual contact with HIV positive individuals are unaware of being infected.
She said MSMs have become very vulnerable to contracting HIV in the advent of social media which makes it easier to communicate with other people to engage in casual sex.
The surveillance team of the City Social Hygiene Clinic will be going around parks, establishments and in other venues frequented by MSMs to get behavior particularly in risky casual and unprotected sex.
Another reason, she cited, for the low statistics in HIV infections is the possibility of patients being tested outside of Baguio. She added, being a tourism-oriented city, it is also highly possible that HIV infected individuals from other places are also engaging in risky sexual behaviors with residents.
“We hope we’re doing differently in Baguio compared to the national statistics,” she stressed adding, “Commercial sex workers and entertainment establishments have been cooperative in securing health permits from the Social Hygiene Clinic.”
At least 1,057 registered commercial sex workers are currently being tested weekly by the Social Hygiene Clinic. Among their foremost concerns are the freelance commercial sex workers who rarely secure health permits and are possible carriers of the deadly virus.
The Baguio Aids Watch Council (Awac) conducted a Candle Lighting Memorial activity Thursday morning at Malcolm Square participated by various stakeholders from the local government, health workers, church, academe, non government organizations and night establishments.
Baguio Awac Chairman Dr. Charles Cheng said the challenge to contain the spread of HIV is a difficult task but the cooperation of the community remains as key in solving the worldwide pandemic.
Cheng added there is still no cure for HIV and available anti-retroviral treatment remains expensive to most patients going as high as P35,000 per patient.
He said intensive education campaign and continued vigilance in the community is important in curbing the very high rates of infection reported in the country.
The Baguio Awac organized a photo exhibit to further spread the knowledge of HIV transmission and other sexually transmitted infections. The City Health Office also provided counseling booths targeted especially to the youth that remain vulnerable to the deadly virus.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on May 24, 2013.