505 OFWs diagnosed with HIV in 2019, up by 12% from 2018 — ACTS-OFW
MANILA, Philippines — Some 505 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) were diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from January to June 2019, up by 12 percent from the 451 discovered in the same period last year, ACTS-OFW Coalition of Organizations said on Friday.
“The cumulative number of OFWs found living with HIV as of June has reached 6,760 – 5,844 men (86 percent) and 916 women (14 percent) – since the government began passive surveillance in 1984,” ACTS-OFW chair Aniceto Bertiz III said in a statement, noting that their median ages were 32 for the men and 34 for the women.
In light of the recent data, the former party-list lawmaker urged returning OFWs who suspect they may have acquired HIV while working abroad to get themselves tested.
“A growing number of Filipinos living with HIV continue to live healthy and productive lives precisely because they are undergoing highly active treatment being provided for free by the government,” Bertiz added.
The former congressman earlier warned that the total number of OFWs found living with HIV was likely to breach the 7,000-mark by yearend, at the rate new cases are getting detected.
OFWs now represent 10 percent of the entire 68,401 confirmed cases listed in the National HIV/AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) Registry from January 1984 to June 2019, according to Bertiz. He added that 61 percent of the OFWs in the registry were from Metro Manila, Calabarzon and Central Luzon.
While HIV still does not have any known cure, early and sustained antiretroviral treatment has been known to effectively keep a patient’s virus load suppressed.
HIV results in progressive deterioration of the immune system, and AIDS is the most advanced stage of it, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Tuberculosis is the leading cause of death among people living with HIV, the WHO added.
The WHO said HIV can be transmitted through “unprotected sexual intercourse (vaginal or anal), and oral sex with an infected person; transfusion of contaminated blood; and the sharing of contaminated needles, syringes, surgical equipment or other sharp instruments. It may also be transmitted between a mother and her infant during pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding.”
In a bid to combat HIV/AIDS in the Philippines, the HIV and AIDS Policy Act of 2018 was enacted last December 2018.
Under the law, teenagers aged 15 to below 18 could volunteer for HIV testing, while those below 15 who are pregnant or who engage in high-risk behavior, could also choose to be tested but with the assistance of a licensed social worker or health worker.
A minor may also agree to HIV testing when the parents or legal guardian cannot be located or refused to give consent. In this case, consent would be obtained from a licensed social worker or health worker.
The measure also mandates the establishment of a roadmap on HIV and AIDS that has clear strategies, targets, operationalization framework, and funding. /je
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