AN OFFICIAL of the Department of Health (DOH)-Northern Mindanao said Misamis Oriental continues to top the case rate ranking of HIV-Aids cases in Northern Mindanao while the regions ranks seventh in the national HIV-Aids growth rate.

According to DOH-Northern Mindanao Infectious Disease Division representative Ian Jose Banaag, and the Northern Mindanao Medical Center HIV-Aids Core Team (NMMC-HACT), there are a total of 363 new cases of HIV-Aids for the first two quarters of 2016 in Misamis Oriental.

"In the whole region we have an average of 5 cases of HIV reported per day. If this trend continues, inevitably MisOr will still retain its position for the rest of the year," Banaag said.

In the whole country, Northern Mindanao is seventh fastest in the HIV-Aids case growth rate with a 2 percent growth this year.

The National Capital Region tops the ranking with a 40 percent growth rate from the past year.

Conception Pagara of the NMMC-HACT says that from January to September this year, they have already counted 18 deaths by HIV-Aids complications.

229 of the total number of new cases of HIV infections have immediately undergone Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) and and are responding well.

Banaag added that people in the 15-24 age group has the highest rate of HIV-Aids detection, majority of whom reported transmission through male-to-male sexual contact and the sharing of syringe needles.

Banaag said that from January to June 2016 there is a total of 841 cases of HIV-Aids nationwide, 798 of which are male and 43 female with 63 reported deaths.

Fritzie Estoque, the President of the Misamis Oriental-Cagayan de Oro Network, said the dissemination of the particulars on HIV-Aids is still problematic in the province.

"If we look at DOH's statistics, it is alarming that the highest rate of people living with HIV comes from the youth. We have heard since May of last year that the province especially Cagayan de Oro is one of the top places with cases of HIV and it still increases up till now. This is a call then to target the general population in the educational programs," Estoque said.

Estoque added that hospitals and medical centers in the city have initiated to give free HIV-Aids diagnosis for people who want to confirm if they already have the virus. Among these medical institutions are the JR Borja Hospital, the Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC), and the Maria Reyna-Xavier University Hospital.

Awareness will also help in the extinguishing of the negative stigma for people living with HIV in the community, Estoque said.

"Many people don't know that sharing utensils, hugging, kissing, or staying with a person living with HIV is not actually fatal. By information dissemination, we will educate people that HIV can only be transmitted through contact with the four body fluids such as blood, seminal secretion, vaginal fluid, and breastmilk. Unless you come in contact with these through sex or feeding, you are actually safe from the virus," Estoque said.