Health official: ‘Love responsibly,’ as number of HIV cases rises
CEBU CITY, Philippines — As Valentine’s day draws near, a local health official is reminding the public to “love responsibly” and use protection to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.
Dr. Maria Chona Medina-Loma, the STD/HIV/AIDS Program Coordinator of the Cebu City Health Department, gave this reminder as she noted that Cebu City currently has a total of 4,710 HIV cases.
The number, she said, is higher by 38 percent compared to the cases recorded from 2010 to 2018.
Loma attributed the increase to the strengthened and enhanced testing programs of the city health department and other laboratories and testing facilities in Cebu, such as the Social Hygiene Clinic of Lapu Lapu and Mandaue.
“Before, when we started the HIV testing in 1984, it was slow and low. 1 percent in a year who got infected in a year, until 2008, it became really increasing, and the demographic profile has changed from female sex worker to men having sex with men,” she said.
Loma admitted that COVID-induced community lockdowns, particularly in 2021, affected their performance in testing at the social hygiene clinic. The testing gradually bounced back in 2022 when the government restrictions loosened.
Loma encourages individuals who are practicing “high-risk sexual behavior” to avail of free HIV testing at the Social Hygiene Clinic of the city or in other public centers and healthcare facilities such as the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC).
“HIV can be preventable like the ABCDE. A is for abstinence; B is for being faithful; C is for correct use of the condom; D is for don’t use drugs, and E, education is very important,” she said in a news forum on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023.
HIV, or the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), “targets the immune system and weakens people’s defense systems against infections and some types of cancer.”
HIV is also transmitted through “unprotected sexual intercourse (anal or vaginal), transfusion of contaminated blood, sharing of contaminated needles, or between a mother and her infant during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding, if the mother is not on treatment.”
On the other hand, AIDS, (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome), describes the most advanced stages of HIV infection.
Loma said the most common mode of HIV transmission based on their records in Cebu City is from people who inject drugs (42 percent), followed by men having sex with men (30 percent).
Loma also said that from 1989 until 2020, they recorded 382 deaths from patients with HIV.
However, they see a ray of hope with the availment and enrolment of anti-retroviral treatment among individuals with HIV.
Last November 2022, the Department of Health in Central Visayas (DOH-7) recognized the Cebu City Health Department’s Social Hygiene Clinic for having the highest number of Anti-Retroviral Treatment Enrolment and ranking third with the most number of HIV Testing.
Another strategy they are implementing this year, she said, is the pre-exposure prophylaxis (PREP).
“If you are negative, you can take the PREP if your partner is HIV positive. Or if you are sexually active individual you can use PREP to prevent HIV. It is for free sa Social Hygiene Clinic. We are also distributing condoms and lubricants everyday for free,” she said.
Central Visayas records 190 new HIV cases from Jan – Mar 2021
Battling HIV amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Cebu
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