MANILA, Philippines – Cases of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in the country have reached epidemic proportions, prompting health authorities to sound the alarm to stem the rampant transmission of the deadly disease.
University of the Philippines College of Medicine associate professor and Philippine General Hospital (PGH) Infectious Diseases Department head Dr. Edcel Salvana said the HIV-AIDS situation in the country has gone from bad to worse.
Salvana said there were only two HIV confirmed cases in the country in 1984. But after ten years, the number increased to 118.
He said that in 2004, confirmed HIV cases reached 199. In 2007 until October of 2009, the number has drastically gone up to 629, more than double the previous years’ recorded cases.
For 2009, Salvana said the Department of Health (DOH) recorded two HIV-AIDS cases daily.
“We’re at an epidemic (level) right now. The spread of HIV cases is rapidly accelerating. If the rate continues the country will have 20,000 confirmed cases by 2020,” Salvana, a Balik Scientist of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) from the United States, warned.
He said there is a possibility that there are many more HIV-AIDS positive people who are not coming out in the open.
Dr. Kate Leyritana, a fellow at the PGH Infectious Diseases Department, initially raised concern at the UP College of Medicine forum “Make Health Count Presidential Series” with Lakas-Kampi-CMD presidential candidate Gilbert Teodoro as guest.
Leyritana asked Teodoro about his health plan in dealing with the deadly HIV-AIDS disease if he is elected president.
Teodoro said the best way to address this health concern is through massive public information.
“Advertise, advertise and advertise. That is the best way for now to address the problem,” the administration bet said.
Victims of the deadly disease now include teenagers as young as 16 years old, young professionals, medical practitioners, lawyers and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
All confirmed cases, Salvana said, were diagnosed to have acquired the disease through sex. Three-fourths of the victims were male while one-fourth was female.
HIV cases became more prevalent because of current male-to-male or gay-to-gay, lesbian-to-lesbian sexual contacts, with all those involved not using condoms during sexual encounters.
Salvana said that their patients at the PGH doubled from 50 in 1998 to 100 patients 1999.
There were reports that most of the new HIV confirmed cases were employed in the country’s various call center establishments.
However, he said it would be unfair to conclude that young, sexually active people who are infected with HIV all come from call centers, since the victims come from different sectors of society.
One solution to arrest this problem is for the public to submit themselves to HIV-AIDS tests and to always practice safe sex.
Former labor undersecretary Susan Ople has also urged the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and leaders of the call center industry to embark on a joint awareness campaign on HIV-AIDS prevention in the workplace.
According to Ople, a still-to-be-published study conducted by the UP Population Institute has also shown a significant number of call center employees engaged in non-romantic but regular casual sex through a system dubbed as “FUBU” or “F—king Buddies.”
“I validated the results of this survey with several call center agents and they told me that FUBU is gaining ground especially among nightshift workers,” she said. –-Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) with Mayen Jaymalin, Philippine Star