The Department of Health (DOH) said on Wednesday, November 29, that the number of people inflicted with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in Central Visayas in the Philippines already reached 4,165 as of June this year. At least 257 of this number are confirmed cases of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Dr. Van Philip Baton, the coordinator of Re-Emerging Infectious Disease Program of DOH Region 7, confirmed the data.

Alarming data

Of this total number of HIV cases in the region, the province of Cebu had the highest number with 3,665 HIV-positive and 219 AIDS-positive.

Province of Bohol came in second with 153 HIV and 27 AIDS cases while Negros Oriental had 84 HIV and 15 AIDS cases. Siquijor, meanwhile, tallied 6 HIV-positive cases.

Baton explained that these places had the most number of cases due to the fact that these are gateways to the Mindanao and Visayas areas, where people just come and go.

The top cause of transmission, Baton added, is by sharing of infected needles tallying 1,852 confirmed cases. Transmission via male-to-male unprotected sex came next with 1,048 cases.

Baton, meanwhile, noted that the Philippine national data showed that the main mode of transmission is caused by male-to-male unprotected sex, which was followed by sharing of infected needles.

Living with the 'stigma'

Adding to the woes of the region, said Baton, is the fact that the HIV patients are getting younger and younger. People aged 25-34 or the young professionals are among the most inflicted age group. In the Province Of Cebu alone, the HIV-positive of the age group accounted for 1,878 total cases.

The regional coordinator also said that the June data shows a certain trend --- a trend that HIV cases in the region have been on the rise.

While the local DOH is doing its best to come up with pro-active measures to prevent the spread of the disease, according to Baton the major challenge is on how to urge people to have themselves tested. He said stigma against HIV-positive is still prevalent in the region. Most HIV-positive individuals are living in shame due to the fact that the disease is still a taboo within the region and the whole of the Philippines.

Most of them chose to live in secret rather than be discriminated upon, Baton said.

Meanwhile, there are now 46,985 HIV cases recorded in the whole of the Philippines since 1984. Of these, 4,556 are AIDS cases while 2,303 individuals have already succumbed to the disease. Travelers to the area need to be aware and take necessary precautions.