MOST cases of Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV-Aids) in the country involved victims who are on their teenage years, said the Department of Health (DOH).

"HIV-positive patients are becoming younger and younger every year," said Baguio General Hospital and Medical center ob-gynecologist Lorena Santos recently.

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She said of the 15 Persons with Aids (PWAs) she is handling, eight are already in the full blown stage, while seven are still in the HIV-positive stage.

Santos said the age of her current patients range from as young as 18 years old to 25, stressing that her patients are getting younger every year.

"Contrary to notions that homosexuals form the majority of HIV-positive cases, majority of our cases get affected due to heterosexual contact," Santos said.

She said her patients are just like regular students or office workers who contracted the virus from having multiple sex partners and unsafe sex practices.

Santos, however, said that all of her current patients are not from Baguio.

"Most of them contracted HIV from their partners abroad while others are from neighboring provinces seeking medication here," she said, adding that HIV cases recently have not been recorded from commercial sex workers but from just ordinary-looking people who are not engaged in the sex trade.

Another sector the government has been investigating is the increasing cases of men having sex with men and male commercial sex workers, which have increased cases in the past years, Santos said.

With this, she warned people practicing unsafe sexual practices to follow the ABC's to avoid HIV and Aids. These are abstinence, being faithful to a partner, and condom-use.

She said only these three, including being faithful to one's sexual partners, have been proven to be the only defense against the still incurable disease.

"So far, we only have anti-retroviral drugs that can help prolong the lives of those affected by HIV but as far as a vaccine or cure for it, we don't have one yet," Santos said.

Data from the National Epidemiology Center revealed that as of April, 4,971 HIV cases were reported in the country with 4,931 asymptomatic or those showing no signs they have the disease.

Santos said it is difficult to know if a person has HIV-Aids because there really are no visible symptoms of an HIV-positive individual unless they get tested.

She said for the period of January to April, 200 new cases were already reported.

Anti-retroviral drug dispensing and HIV-testing worth P4,000 per test are currently given free by the DOH.

However, with the limited budget given to HIV prevention, once an epidemic starts, anti-retroviral drugs will become more expensive and scarce.

"With this, we should stand guard as we might not know that our next sexual partner is already HIV positive. We will surely be sorry for our promiscuity," Santos warned. (JM Agreda)