Central Visayas is top 4 in reported HIV cases

By Ador Vincent S. Mayol |December 02,2015 - 01:28 AM

Church steps up education drive, reminds public not to shun patients

Central Visayas had 47 new human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cases in October, the 4th highest  region nationwide.

Most of these cases come from Cebu, a Department of Health (DOH) report says.

The growing number of HIV  and Aids (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) has prompted the Archdiocese of Cebu to step up efforts to educate the public about the disease.

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma also reminded all priests to sympathize with HIV/Aids victims and to stop any form of discrimination against them.

“We have to reach out to HIV victims because they, too, are our brothers and sisters. This is an imperfect world, but life is still beautiful and meaningful,” he said in a press conference at the Archbishop’s Residence in celebration of  World Aids Day yesterday.

“We’ve heard the data. We will use our resources to manifest love to victims of this disease which remains to pose concerns in our society,” the prelate added.

Based on data from the DOH’s Epidemiology Bureau, there were 651 new HIV Ab sero-positive individuals in October, a 21-percent increase from the 537 cases in October last year.

Nine out of 10 cases, or 91 percent, were still asymptomatic as of yesterday.

Most, or 96 percent, were male. The average age of those afflicted is 28. Half belong to the 25-34 age group while three out of 10 were aged 15 to 24.

Central Visayas ranked 4th nationwide in October, after the National Capital Region (NCR) with 258 cases, Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) with 111, and Central Luzon with 51.

Rounding out the top 6 are Western Visayas with 38 cases and Davao Region with 31. A total of 115 other cases came from the rest of the country.

Since January 1984, when the first case of HIV infection was reported in the Philippines, Central Visayas has ranked third among the regions with the most number of patients.

Since 1984, the DOH report showed that the mode of transmission for 8 out of 10 cases among males is male-male sex (MSM). Half of the MSM cases reported were from NCR while almost all intravenous drug users (IDUs), or 99 percent, came from Central Visayas.

Other modes of transmission are male-female sex, bisexual contact, blood transfusions, sharing of needles, needle prick injury, and mother-to-child.

Instead of judging HIV patients, Palma encouraged priests to be extra sensitive and say funeral Mass for those who died of Aids.

Palma said he will reprimand any priest who refuses to say Mass for a deceased HIV victim.

“If there’s anyone who needs the mercy and compassion of God, it is the person who died of Aids. We can educate our priests about it. We have to tell them that we should be a merciful Church that reflects the love of God,” he said.

Palma was informed about reports that some parishes refused to do funeral Mass for persons who died of HIV or Aids.

The World Aids Day is celebrated every December 1 since 1988. The celebration is intended to spread awareness regarding the disease, to show support for people living with HIV, and to remember those who died of Aids.

The event was also celebrated by the Cebu Caritas Inc. and the Philippine Catholic HIV and AIDS Network (PhilChan), a Church-based agency which was created by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines in response to the magnitude of HIV/Aids cases in the country.

They chose the theme “Getting to Zero (Loved and Forgiven, Zero % Fear, 100 % Love).”

Dr. Ma. Consuelo Malaga of PhilChan said everyone should be aware of the threat of HIV and Aids.

“The virus is still around and we can’t be complacent about it. We have to fight the virus which until now is there and is killing a lot of people, not just in the Philippines, but globally,” she said.

Malaga said the number of persons affected with HIV in the Philippines has increased since more people are aware and have themselves tested.

“In 2008, one person is detected with HIV each day in the Philippines. In 2015, one person detected with HIV every hour, or 22 cases found in a day,” the physician said.

She said contraceptives like condom do not prevent the spread of HIV.

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