IT MAY not be surprising, but the number of sexually transmitted infections, HIV and Aids is on the rise.

From January to June this year, 17 medical clinics associated with Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC) detected a number of cases of human immune-deficiency virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) among Filipino migrant workers bound for the Middle East.

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OFWs found to be infected with tuberculosis, AIDS, Hepatitis B or C, syphilis will be put on a watch list and kept from entering GCC countries. Under the test system, all cases found to be reactive in the screening method done twice within a span of 14 days are referred to the DOH laboratory for confirmatory tests with strict confidentiality of the OFWs found to be positive with HIV.

This may be just the tip of the iceberg.

The Philippines is considered to be a low-HIV-prevalence country, with less than 0.1 percent of the adult population estimated to be HIV positive. This current classification may be inducing a sense of complacency among the populace who believe that they are not at risk.

Most of the routes to HIV-Aids transmission are classified in three manners: Unprotected paid (and unpaid) sex which accounts for a significant share of STI and HIV infections. A large number of men buy sex regularly and the level of condom use during paid sex is still low.

Another route is through injecting drug use while is a major driving factor in the spread of HIV. Studies shows that there is often an overlap between communities of injecting drug users (IDUs) and communities of sex workers where those who sell sex may do it to fund a drug habit, or they may have become involved in sex work first before turning to drug use.

The third route is the transmission between men. Most men who have sex with men (MSM) refuse to identify themselves as gay due to cultural norms that discourages homosexuality. Recent data for Davao City indicates MSMs as the primary route of infection.

In addition, an increasing number of women who are married and considered low-risk of HIV infection are becoming infected with HIV. Estimates suggest that around 25-40 percent of new HIV infections are among wives and girlfriends of men who became infected through paid sex, having sex with other men or injecting drugs.

Acquired immune deficiency syndrome is a set of symptoms and infections resulting from the damage to the human immune system caused by the human immunodeficiency virus. HIV is a virus that damages human immune cells. It weakens the immune system and, without treatment, leads most infected people to develop AIDS. Unfortunately, many remain dangerously ignorant about the disease, or are unwilling and unable to act on it. Email comments to roledan@gmail.com