FROM being third just a few weeks ago, Central Visayas is now No. 2 on the list of regions with the most number of persons living with HIV or Aids, health officials said on Tuesday.
They urged the public to avail themselves of free voluntary testing being offered by government health facilities, while one official warned that the incidence of HIV and Aids in the region “is becoming very alarming.”
Only Metro Manila or the National Capital Region (NCR) has a higher number of persons living with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) that leads to the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (Aids).
In Central Visayas, Cebu remains on top of the list, with 67 persons confirmed to be living with Aids, and 1,872 others who have tested positive for HIV but have yet to show or feel symptoms.
Dr. Lakshmi Legaspi, Department of Health (DOH)-Central Visayas assistant director, said that so far this year, the number of persons with HIV has risen by 33 percent.
“It’s becoming very alarming,” Legaspi added.
Since 1984, at least 62 people from Central Visayas have died as a result of HIV/Aids.
Bohol Province is second to Cebu, with persons living with HIV/Aids, while 58 others are currently asymptomatic.
Negros Oriental has six persons confirmed to be living with HIV/Aids cases and 42 others who have shown no symptoms, although they have been tested positive.
The island province of Siquijor, the region’s smallest, has the lowest number of persons who have tested positive of HIV: two, both asymptomatic.
Of the persons living with HIV/Aids in Central Visayas, around 1,834 are male.
Health offices in Cebu Province and Cebu City have different situations when it comes to monitoring persons with HIV in their jurisdictions.
Based on a report from the Cebu City Health office, around 75 percent of persons with HIV/Aids got the virus from sexual contact, while 25 percent got it through intravenous drug use. In the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) in Cebu City, the region’s largest government hospital, the situation is reversed.
Dr. Chamberlain Agtuca, a physician and a member of the VSMMC HIV/Aids Core Team, said they assisted an average 60 persons per month who come to their facility to have themselves tested for HIV/Aids.
Agtuca said that over the years, the number of people who come to VSMMC for HIV/Aids testing has doubled. Most are young adults.
As DOH-Central Visayas celebrates HIV/Aids Testing Week, government officials and members of support groups urged those who are in doubt to get tested.
Agtuca said that the VSMMC is currently offering free HIV/Aids tests.
Aside from VSMMC, the Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC), as well as the the Mandaue City and Lapu-Lapu City Health Offices, will provide free testing.
He said that the increased awareness of the disease and the presence of support groups contributed to the increase in the number of persons confirmed to be living with HIV/Aids.
Legaspi said that the agency has intensified its campaign to promote voluntary testing and provide anti-retroviral medicines for persons positive of HIV/Aids.
She also urged local government units to intensify the DOH’s campaign to get more people to undergo voluntary testing.
Jerson See, Cebu Plus Association Inc. executive director, said there remains a need for more awareness on the disease.
“It’s really alarming. Let us understand that HIV/Aids is not an easy disease. Once you get it, you will have to live with it for the rest of your life,” See said.
He pointed out the need for government and non-government offices to work together in preventing the spread of HIV/Aids.
Consent is required for HIV testing, except in some situations like blood or organ donations or when HIV becomes an issue in Family Code cases.
The Philippine Aids Prevention and Control Act, however, provides for a jail term of six to 12 years if a person who has HIV “knowingly or negligently causes another to get infected.”
Certain body fluids like blood, semen and breast milk can carry HIV. Campaigns to prevent HIV from spreading recommend using protection during sex; avoiding injectible drugs and needle-sharing; and limiting the number of one’s sexual partners. (Sun.Star Cebu)