HIV/AIDS TESTING. In line with the World AIDS Day, personnel of the Baguio City Health Services Office man the community-based HIV/AIDS testing area at the city hall lobby on Monday (Nov. 26, 2018). The city health office is urging sex workers and those with risky behavior to have a regular checkup, as 33 new cases were recorded in the city from January to August this year. (Photo by Liza T. Agoot)
BAGUIO CITY -- Thirty-three new cases of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) were recorded in Baguio City from January to August this year, the Epidemiology Bureau of the Department of Health (DOH) has reported.
This brings to 307 the total number of HIV/AIDS cases in the city since monitoring started in 1984.
“This is increasing,” noted Marlene de Castro, acting head of the Baguio Aids Watch Council (AWAC) and executive director of non-government organization Baguio Center for Young Adults (BCYA), saying one case alone is already a cause of concern that needs to be addressed quickly.
At the sidelines of the launching of the World AIDS Day at the Baguio City Hall on Monday, de Castro said five of these new cases were recorded in August alone.
Majority of the cases were mostly males or men having sex with men.
“We have more male cases. This is because of the risky behavior of males and most are men having sex with men (MSM),” de Castro said.
Dr. Zoraida Clavio, head of the city government's public health laboratory and member of the HIV/AIDS surveillance team, said workers at entertainment clubs including those with risky behavior should undergo testing.
“This is because of sexual adventurism,” de Castro seconded.
She also urged everyone to undergo testing, in line with the World AIDS Day theme, “Know your status.”
“It's going to be like a wildfire. Slow but will surely eat people up. That is why there is really a need to strengthen the advocacy and information campaign,” the DOH official said.
Data from de Castro's office also show that in the Cordillera, there are a total of 457 HIV/AIDS cases from 1984 to August 2018.
Benguet has 54 cases; Abra, 50; Kalinga, 13; Ifugao, 12; Apayao, 11; Mountain Province, 10; and Baguio, 307.
A total of 61 new cases were recorded in the January-July period in the region.
Mode of transmission
HIV/AIDS is not transmitted by talking to a person living with AIDS.
De Castro said the dreaded virus is transmitted through unprotected sex, where the vaginal fluid or the seminal fluid has the HIV virus; through blood transfusion; and perinatal or an infected pregnant mother transmitting the virus to the fetus.
Mere touch of a person who has AIDS is not a cause for alarm to be infected, de Castro assured.
“Even through kiss, you need gallons of gallons of saliva to transmit the virus. You could hold hands. Touch the person,” she said.
De Castro noted that while people living with HIV/AIDS-infected people are usually the ones afraid of catching the disease, the inflicted person must be the one to be scared, as their immune system is low and catching colds from other people could worsen their condition.
Go for testing
“We know our sexual behavior. Ideally, we have to know who we are having sex with. But the problem is people do not admit it and they only get to know of their condition when the virus becomes asymptomatic,” De Castro said.
She urged the public to undergo testing for HIV/AIDS if they are aware of their risky behavior, adding the DOH is giving it for free.
According to de Castro, there are people with AIDS who are living productively because they learned of their status early and they undergo treatment to boost their immune system. “If detected late, it might already affect the person’s immune system and it could cause the person’s life,” she said.
The setting up on Monday of a testing booth at the Baguio City Hall lobby is part of the campaign that anybody can go for testing, for the public to remove the stigma that testing is a proof of having the disease.
De Castro explained that the testing is free, and the results are confidential with the DOH. If a person is found positive, he or she is called for counseling and referred to the treatment hub, where medicines to boost the immune system are provided.
“Importante yun [counselling] kasi pag nalaman mo na positive, you will be devastated. So agapan mo yun na things can be done through antiretroviral treatment (Counseling is important because once you know you're positive, you would feel devastated. So, you must act while it's still early),” she said.
Clavio agreed, saying even those not working in nightclubs must know their status.
"Professionals or even laborers, if they think they have the risk factors, they need to go have HIV testing," she urged.
In Baguio, the Social Hygiene Clinic of the city government conducts testing for free. The state-owned Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center, as well as other hospitals in the city, also conduct HIV/AIDS testing.
“Itong ginagawa natin is community HIV testing is rapid test in a few minutes, about 10 to 15. After a prick on the finger, the blood is placed on the test strip and immediately, the result is known,” Clavio explained.
If positive, the result is sent to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) or at the San Lazaro Hospital for confirmation, while the person is initially given medicines to boost the immune system.
“HIV/AIDS is not treatable, but there is a need to give medicine to suppress the virus that is causing the person’s physique to be weak, which is handled by the treatment hub, also at the social hygiene center,” Clavio continued.
Alphabet of prevention
De Castro shared the “ABC” of prevention: A for Abstinence; B for Be mutually faithful with your partner; C for Consistent use of condom; D for Define your behavior; and Z for Zip your pants. (PNA)