THE number of sexually transmitted infections (STI) and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) cases in Baguio City is increasing and becoming an epidemic, said a health official recently.

HIV-Aids cases in the city have steadily risen from 10 cases for the years 1992 to 2002 to 25 cases for the period of 2004 to 2009 alone, or a 150 percent increase in reported cases in just a five-year period, said city social hygiene clinic head Dr. Celia Brillantes.

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“The slow transmission and low number of cases of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and its full blown stage called Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome and other sexually transmitted infections in the 1990s is now a growing epidemic and hidden in transmission,” she said.

Brillantes said the situation is already alarming because of the total 35 cases reported in the history of the social hygiene clinic’s monitoring, 17 of the persons with HIV-Aids already died due to complications brought about by the disease.

Not only are the HIV-Aids cases on the rise, as even the number of non- gonococcal STI like syphilis is also rising.

“Of those who were tested in the city social hygiene clinic, cases of syphilis infections have been increasing, which is a proxy-indicator that HIV cases are also increasing,” Brillantes said.

She said that of the cases reported in Baguio City, the number of those who turned out to be positive with HIV are not only focused with sex workers but also overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and those with multiple sex partners, particularly men having sex with men or MSMs.

Brillantes also underscored reports from national media that cases of HIV-Aids have been proliferating in call centers as these are not the case in Baguio.

However, the confirmed cases indicate many of those infected are not only call center agents but also include those going out at night doing risky behaviors like unprotected sex with multiple sex partners under the influence of alcohol.

Brillantes said the social hygiene clinic has also noticed a 10-percent increase in people consulting and availing of the services of the clinic from 2008 to 2009 and even in just the first two months of the year.

She said 60 to 80 percent of females do not feel any symptoms of HIV-Aids at all and notice only that they have been infected after tests were done on them.

She also said that for the period of 1992 to 2002, seven out of 10 positive cases were OFWs.

This trend, however, was changed in a period of five years because from 2004 to 2009, the clinic reported four OFWs per year become infected with HIV-Aids in the city.

She said the latest reported cases in the city health social hygiene clinic involve men having sex with men, with ages ranging from 20 to 29 years old.

The health official also said that from 1992 to 2002, there was only one confirmed case below the age of 25, but for the years 2004 to 2009, more than half are already between the ages 20 to 29.

With this, the city social hygiene clinic is intensifying its drive by conducting lectures and counseling to sex workers, universities and even call centers to promote reproductive health awareness.

The clinic’s trained staff is also doing intensified drives to check sex workers based on their data average from one to two sex partners every week.

Brillantes said the best way to address the increase in HIV-Aids and STI cases is abstinence and being faithful to one’s partner.

She, however, said the youth of today become exposed to sex at an early age through the internet, exposing them to risky behaviors like unprotected and casual sex.

This, she said, is the reason they are also giving their patients, especially those who have multiple partners, other options like using condoms. (JM Agreda)