THE Cebu City Council is eyeing to realign portions of the City’s 2020 annual budget and allocate a larger budget for the HIV/Aids programs of the health office.
The City Council also asked Mayor Edgardo Labella to reconvene the Cebu City Multi-Sectoral STD/HIV/Aids Council.
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is the most advanced stage of human immunodeficiency virus, according to City Health Office (CHO) head Daisy Villa.
In Cebu City alone, the CHO recorded a total of 3,897 persons living with HIV—3,535 males and 362 females. The city has the largest population of persons with HIV in Central Visayas.
Villa said the number is only based on the persons who visited the CHO for voluntary HIV tests. There might be more persons who do not know they are infected with HIV as it is asymptomatic, showing no signs, she said.
The Department of Health has been encouraging sexually active persons, including those who have multiple partners and engage in same-sex intercourse, to get tested regularly. When detected early, a person with HIV can seek antiretroviral therapy (ART), which helps people with HIV live longer, healthier lives and reduces the risk of HIV transmission.
ART, when taken properly, inhibits HIV viral replication and therefore reduces the amount of HIV in the body (viral load) and slows disease progression. As a result, there is a reduction in viral antigens present, which in turn reduces the production of HIV antibodies, the World Health Organization reported on its website.
According to Villa, the CHO has asked P6 million from the 2020 annual budget to fund its programs that include ART, distribution of clean syringes to drug users and seminars. The CHO allocates P30,000 for the treatment of a person with HIV per month, or P360,000 in one year.
Bigger amount needed
Councilor Eduardo Rama Jr. suggested to the members of the City Council to consider realigning some budget allocations from next year’s annual budget, saying the City Council has the power to do so.
Allocating bigger amount for the CHO’s HIV programs, Rama said more people living with HIV can avail themselves of treatment.
Vice Mayor Michael Rama, who chairs the health committee, said his committee would have to discuss the matter thoroughly before its members could provide a comprehensive solution to the public health problem.
He said he will call Labella to diinform him about the City Council’s move.
For his part, Councilor Jerry Guardo urged the CHO to monitor drug dependents diagnosed with HIV. He said the syringes given to them could be abused—either the syringes would be reused or sold to other intravenous drug users who do not know their status.
The CHO has been distributing syringes to drug dependents to prevent them from sharing needles.
Villa said the sharing of infected needles is one of the top modes of HIV transmission. HIV is commonly transmitted through sexual activities and needle or syringe use. Blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids and breast milk from a person with HIV can transmit HIV. JJL