31 OFWs, 9 injecting drug users among new HIV cases

A TOTAL of 295 new human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cases were diagnosed in the country in October, up 48 percent compared to the 200 reported in the same month of 2011, a member of Congress said Monday.

Citing National Epidemiology Center statistics, LPG-MA Rep. Arnel Ty said the new infections brought to 2,761 the cumulative number of new HIV cases discovered from January to October, versus 1,869 in the same 10-month period last year.

Ty said the Philippine HIV and AIDS Registry, which began passive surveillance of the disease in 1984, now lists an aggregate of 11,125 cases, of which 60 percent, or 6,701 infections, were detected from 2010 onward.

HIV causes AIDS, or the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. The disease that ravages the human body’s immune system does not have any known cure. However, anti-retroviral treatments can slow down the ailment.

Ty is one of the five authors of House Bill 5312, which seeks to renew the country’s outmoded, 14-year-old AIDS Prevention and Control Law.

The House committee on health has already initially approved the bill, which is now pending with the (House) committee on appropriations.

The bill proposes to earmark an extra P400 million to launch a forceful new program to suppress the disease that is being spread in the country largely via sexual contact, predominantly male-to-male sex.

Ty said the October cases included 31 overseas Filipino workers (29 males, two females) who all acquired the virus through sexual contact, and nine drug users who were all infected after they shared tainted needles.

He said the October cases – 273 males and 22 females ­– had a median age of 28 years, with those in the 20 to 29 age-group comprising 57 percent.

Except for the nine injecting drug users, all of the October cases were contaminated due to sexual contact, with males having sex with other males accounting for 83 percent.

The Philippine National AIDS Council has warned that up to 46,000 Filipinos could be diagnosed with HIV by 2015, unless the rapid spread of the contagious disease is contained.

At the rate new cases are being spotted, the Philippine government could be spending up to P1 billion annually by 2015, just to procure the anti-retroviral drugs for Filipinos living with HIV, according to Dr. Edsel Salvana, a specialist in infectious disease medicine.

As of June 30, Ty said at least 2,761 Filipinos living with HIV were known to be undergoing anti-retroviral therapy.

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