AS CASES RISE IN BICOL: Drive vs HIV-AIDS stepped up

By Marlon Loterte LEGAZPI CITY ---- The Department of Health regional office in Bicol has called on those considered as high risk persons to avail of free testing in view of the rising cases of Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection in the region. The DOH Epidemiology Bureau recorded 226 cases in 2017 which showed an alarming spike from the 123 cases recorded in 2016. Data for 2018 are not immediately available. “The increasing trend of the HIV cases in Bicol is alarming but what we see now is only the tip of the iceberg,” said Dr. Napoleon L. Arevalo, officer in charge of DOH Bicol. Arevalo advised persons with risky behaviors to seek free HIV testing provided by ten social hygiene clinics in the region. The purpose is to know their status early so they can begin to undergo medical intervention, he added. “The DOH provides free and confidential HIV testing and counseling. Once a person is HIV positive we refer him or her to the treatment hubs in Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital in Legazpi City and the Bicol Medical Center in Naga City,” Arevalo said, stressing that these antiretroviral (ARV) drugs from those treatment hubs are for free. In the region, Camarines Sur remains to have the highest number of cases with 80 cases in 2017. It is followed by Albay with 71 cases; Sorsogon – 31; Masbate – 22; Camarines Norte – 16; and Catanduanes – 6. Cumulatively from 1984 to 2017, there are 724 HIV cases recorded in the region. Throughout the country, a total of 50,725 cases were recorded from January 1984 to December 2017. “HIV is a grave threat in the Philippines for there are now 32 new cases detected every day in the country. With this, the Bicol region only contributes two percent in the national data,” Lilian Rose Contessa Encisa, DOH HIV-AIDS program coordinator said. Encisa said the DOH is unrelenting in its information and education campaign on the prevention of HIV in the region. “The key to prevent HIV is ABCDE which stands for Abstinence, Be mutually faithful with your partner, Consistent and correct use of condoms, Don’t use drugs and Early detection and education,” she added. The ten HIV testing sites in Bicol are the city health offices (CHO) of Tabaco and Legazpi and rural health units (RHU) of Daraga and Manito in Albay, Naga CHO in Camarines Sur, Daet RHU III in Camarines Norte, Sorsogon CHO in Sorsogon, Virac RHU in Catanduanes and Masbate CHO and San Jacinto RHU in Masbate. HIV tests are conducted free of charge and are kept highly confidential.