Aldrin Bahit Jr., chief statistical specialist of PSA-Cordillera, said the awareness level of women in Cordillera is at 76.8 percent of the total population compared with other regions.
“Women ages 15 to 49 say that people can reduce the risk of getting HIV by using condoms every time they have sexual intercourse and by having one sex partner who is not infected and has no other partners,” Bahit noted.
He added that 88 percent of women in the region knows the importance of limiting sexual intercourse to one uninfected partner, while 80 percent knows that using condoms will prevent the acquisition of the virus.
“In the region, 76.8 percent of women knows that using condoms and limiting sexual intercourse to one uninfected partner will reduce the probability of acquiring HIV,” he said.
This awareness level is higher than the 67 percent awareness level on the national scale.
In terms of attitude, Bahit said 37 percent of the total population of the region is unlikely to have a discriminatory attitude toward people living with the disease.
“This only proves that we are not discriminating them. Thus, our line agencies, especially the Department of Health (DOH), are willing to extend help,” he said.
The DOH reported that 2,234 youths were diagnosed with HIV from January to August this year. In August alone, 309 people, 15 to 24 years old, were diagnosed with the disease.
Meanwhile, Baguio City continuously enhances its massive information and education campaign, especially among high-risk sectors, to prevent cases of the dreaded illness from going out of control.
Earlier, Cristina Juan, a nurse at the City Social Hygiene Clinic, noted that while the HIV cases among men having sex with men are rising, cases of commercial sex workers infected with HIV are on a downtrend.
She attributed this to interventions by the local health department, particularly the conduct of weekly health checkups among women and men, who are at risk, aside from informing them of the dangers of the sex trade.
In an earlier interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA) Baguio’s social hygiene clinic chief, Dr. Celia Flor Brilliantes, said the clinic has started implementing the HIV Integrated Behavioral Serologic Surveillance System (HIBSSS), targeting the MSM and Transgender or those having sex with both genders.
“The goal of the activity is to determine if there has been a change in the behavior of the sector,” Brillantes said, adding this would be the basis for determining appropriate courses of action.
“There is a steady increase of HIV positive all over the country,” she noted, saying 31 HIV infections are recorded daily nationwide.
Statistics showed that majority of the cases are men, mostly MSM. The number is thrice the number of women with HIV.
“It’s a behavior that we really want to change with the use of condom and the reduction of partners, multiplicity of partners,” Brillantes said.
The target of the surveillance is 300 MSMs until October, Brilliantes said, and it will be a sample population, which will be the basis for coming up with programs addressing the increasing cases among the sector.
Brillantes said the MSM community is willing to repeat HIV tests to know their status.
According to Brilliantes, most of those found infected with the HIV are not female sex workers, but young professionals.
She added that most of the MSMs found positive with the virus are male sex workers.
“We do surveillance and find out the places frequented by the MSM. We do blood extraction, which the sector also supports, to know their HIV status,” Brillantes added.
“The goal, which is a national program of the government, is for the MSM to have a change in behavior, for them to really use condom, for them not to have HIV infection, and to reduce, if not stop, having multiple partners, and prevent acquiring the disease,” she said.
She said the health department had been doing the surveillance nationwide since 1996 because of the increasing number of HIV cases in the country.
Brilliantes said although HIV is still prevalent in Baguio, the incidence rate of recorded HIV infection in the city has recently gone down from one case a week to one case every two weeks.
By Pamela Mariz Geminiano (PNA)