HIV-AIDS cases in Baguio rise

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

ELIMINATE stigma, give additional support to prevent the spread of Human Immunodeficiency Virus and open more testing centers.

This was the call of Red Ribbon Project coordinator in Baguio Ryan Javier to the local government during the World AIDS Day celebration after their organization noticed a seeming lack of support for the wellness of residents to have access for HIV testing and education.

The HIV advocate called on local government to give more access to various vulnerable groups exposed to risky sexual behaviors such as commercial sex workers, Men Having Sex with Men (MSM) and Overseas Filipino Workers.

Javier said the Department of Health sees to the needs of People Living with HIV (PLHIVs) and stressed it is now the time for local government to do their part in lowering the cases of HIV-AIDS in the region.

Dr. Celia Flor Brillantes, Baguio Social Hygiene Clinic head, reported some eight new cases monitored this year in the city bringing the total number of monitored cases to 59 in the city since they started monitoring in 1991. Around 17 of these cases progressed to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome or AIDS and eventually died.

The spike in the number of cases is a result of a recent surveillance conducted by the Social Hygiene Clinic where five in 300 MSMs tested positive with HIV and seven in the 300 tested positive for syphilis.

Brillantes said the increasing cases is a reason for local government to further increase funding for additional employees to monitor HIV-AIDS cases in the city.

The social hygiene clinic head said the city government has the ordinance recognizing the local AIDS Watch Council but it needs additional personnel to carry out massive screening, testing, surveillance and monitoring of vulnerable sectors to HIV.

She stressed there has been an improvement in the participation of commercial sex workers in various health programs of government through participation of the Baguio Association of Bars and Entertainment Society (BABES).

BABES president Allan Bandoy said there is growing participation among bar owners of establishments with female commercial sex workers and entertainers in health and sanitation monitoring but there is still a need to shift focus on male commercial sex workers and entertainers.

Bandoy stressed out of some seven bars with male entertainers only two to three have been actively involved in smearing and testing conducted by the Social Hygiene Clinic.

With the tourism industry picking up in the city this month until February, he said, there is a chance more people will be vulnerable to acquiring HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Infections.

He urged other bar owners to cooperate in their drive for zero cases of HIV-AIDS in the city by complying with regular testing as he highlighted the success of their campaign in requiring some 6,000 of 7,500 commercial sex workers to regularly conduct smear tests.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on December 06, 2013.

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