THE municipality of Oton, some 12 kilometers south of Iloilo City, will host the 33rd International Aids Candlelight Memorial ceremony on Sunday, May 15.

The Department of Health (DOH) in Western Visayas reported that Oton ranked first in the top 10 list of towns in Iloilo province with the highest number of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cases.

Closely following Oton are the municipalities of Pototan, Passi City, Pavia, Calinog, San Enrique, Janiuay, Cabatuan, Barotac Nuevo and Tigbauan.  

Dr. Elvie Villabos, chief of infectious disease and DOH cluster head, said the increase of HIV-Aids cases is alarming, with one new case per day in 2008 to 27 newly diagnosed cases per day in February 2016.

In Western Visayas, the DOH diagnosed one case every 23 hours per day and placed the region at two percent. The National Capitol Region has 39 percent, Calabarzon (Region 4-A) has 17 percent, Central Visayas has 13 percent, Davao Region has eight percent, and Central Luzon with nine percent.

The DOH said that from 2011 to 2015, the newly diagnosed HIV cases among young key affected populations (YKAP) increased by 230 percent, of which male to male sex and males who have sex with both male and female were the two predominant modes of transmission.

The high-risk age group indulges in unprotected sex without fully understanding the consequence of their behavior, said the DOH.

The 33rd memorial celebration has a theme “Engage, Educate, Empower,” which emphasizes the need for people living with and affected by HIV to join hands and work together in the response to HIV.

The DOH said that only when involving people with HIV can resources be used efficiently to provide a sustainable HIV response for universal access to quality health and social services.  

The whole day celebration in Oton on Sunday will have a sports fest among the lesbian, gay and transgender (LGBT) community and this will be followed by HIV counseling and testing. A mass will be held at 3 p.m. The culminating program was scheduled at 4:30 p.m. (Lydia C. Pendon/Sunnex)