HIV cases up in Cebu; seafarers vulnerableBy Carine M. Asutilla
Cebu Daily News
A Catholic pro-life organization noted an increase in the number of overseas Filipino workers in Cebu infected with the (HIV) human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).
This May, the Human Life International (HLI) Pilipinas monitored at least 18 HIV cases, which were eight more than the 10 cases in the same period last year, said Dr. Rene Bullecer, HLI director.
Most victims were male seafarers, who got the virus when they had intercourse with sex workers abroad before heading home to their families.
Many said they weren’t aware they had HIV until their next medical check-up which was required for work abroad, only to be diagnosed with the virus and not hired again.
Bullecer said government agencies can’t be blamed because offices like the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration give regular seminars and orientation sessions to overseas workers, which include how to take care of one’s health.
According to data of HLI-Cebu since 1995 until May this year, Cebu recorded 538 HIV/AIDS cases.
Of this number, 54 eventually died.
A 28-year-old man from southern Cebu who suffered from the disease for two years was the latest casualty. He died last May. Most of the patients or 488 are men. Only 38 are women. The youngest HIV case is 17 years old.
Being faithful to one’s spouse or partner is still the best way to avoid getting HIV/AIDS said Dr. Angelita Salarda, health support division chief of the Department of Health in Central Visayas.
She encouraged persons with multiple sexual partners or unfaithful partners to undergo HIV screening especially if they’re experiencing noticeable weight loss.
Free screening and HIV treatment is offered in the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City.
At present, 113 HIV patients are being treated in the state-run hospital, she said.
Salarda said that once infected by the virus, the respiratory system of the victim would be the first to be affected. The immune system then gets weaker and weight loss follows.