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Clinics confirm rising cases of OFWs with HIV, AIDS

First Posted 14:37:00 07/25/2010

MANILA, Philippines?A group of medical clinics giving medical exams to hundreds of thousands of prospective Filipino workers for the Middle East on Sunday confirmed a report of the Department of Health that the number of cases of AIDS and HIV among Filipino migrant workers is on the rise.

From January to June this year, the 17 medical clinics associated with Gamca-Philippines detected 19 OFWs with either the human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV) or the full-blown acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).

This number is almost the same as the number for the entire year last year?which is 21, said Dr. Rodolfo Punzalan of the Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC) Accredited Medical Clinics Association.

Gamca undertakes medical exams for Filipino workers applying for work visas in behalf of the health ministries of the GCC members Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Kuwait.

Gamca makes sure that the proper protocol is followed ?in ferreting out positive HIV cases for workers applying to the GCC states,? Punzalan said in a statement.

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.

However, Punzalan said, between 8,000 and 10,000 OFWs by-passed the Gamca watch list system from October 2009 to April 2010 through some rogue agencies.

Coupled with the rising number of HIV/AIDS cases among OFWs, this number is a major concern for Gamca, he said.

Punzalan said these OFWs who by-passed the Gamca system will undergo another set of medical examinations in the host countries and will be immediately repatriated to the Philippines if found to be carrying the infectious diseases.

?Medical clinics that [falsely] approved their test results will be fined $1,000? and may, together with the recruitment agency, shoulder the repatriation and replacement costs.

He said all Gamca-accredited clinics closely coordinate with the Department of Health, particularly with the STD/AIDS Cooperative Central Laboratory in strictly implementing the AIDS/HIV testing procedure for all OFWs.

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.

Veronica UY

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