Sarangani supports call to end HIV/AIDS

19 Jul 2015
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ALABEL, Sarangani (July 19, 2015) – The Provincial Health Office (PHO) has performed voluntary HIV testing and counseling to pave the way for treatment of patients.

This would also generate baseline data of HIV in Sarangani Province and help prevent its spread.

PHO head Dr. Arvin Alejandro said HIV testing was one of the major activities during the simultaneous nationwide Hi-5 Caravan held at the Capitol gym on June 23.

The health caravan focused on the promotion of health information and services on maternal and child health, men’s health, adolescent health, health for the elderly, and nutrition.

Alejandro said an official report from General Santos City health office showed that 16 people living with HIV (PLHIV) were from Sarangani.

Alejandro treated the report as “very alarming. Even one case is very alarming.”

Dr. Ali Tumama of the Department of Health (DOH) said these cases were traced back to the first discovery of the disease in 1984 up to the present. Dr. Tumama is the DOH regional program manager for sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS.

Dr. Mely Lastimoso, coordinator of social hygiene clinic of General Santos City Integrated Health Services Office, earlier reported her office has diagnosed 206 cases since 2007 covering SOCSARGEN area and its nearby cities. Fifty of them already died, she said.

Dr. Tumama disclosed that from the cases Dr. Lastimoso reported, around 170 were coming from General Santos City.

Dr. Tumama said Region 12 has 3% of the total 23,000 PLHIV in the Philippines. As cases increase, he said “chances to be infected with the disease in the country are estimated at 23 persons per day.”

Dr. Tumama said a satellite treatment hub in General Santos City is underway and the antiretroviral (ARV) drug would be available starting July in the social hygiene clinic in the city.

The government is spending bulk of its funds from sin taxes for the purchase of ARV, a treatment that slows down progression of the disease and may lead to a near-normal life expectancy.

Roughly P70,000 is estimated for the annual treatment per PLHIV per year which the government covers.

Even if ARV reduces risks of death and complications, Dr. Lastimoso stressed a PLHIV should make it a point to follow a treatment adherence program. This means “strictly no delays in taking medicine. The 100 virus count might multiply into a thousand viruses if not taken religiously.”

“ARV is a single dose daily treatment for life.” Dr. Lastimoso said this would react by boosting the immune system level of PLHIV up to 1,800 while normal immune system count ranges only from 600 to 1,200.

Contrary to the extent of 10 years that PHLIV could live which the books say, Dr. Lastimoso said “the longest AIDS can stay in the body these days is six years.”

HIV/AIDS or human immunodeficiency virus infection and acquired immune deficiency syndrome is a virus that weakens the body’s ability to fight infections and diseases.

It can primarily be transmitted thru sexual contact, blood and blood products like blood transfusion, needle sharing among injecting drug users and thru mother to child transmission during pregnancy, delivery and breastfeeding.

Dr. Lastimoso said blood transfusion and sharing of needles, however, are the fastest means to transmit the disease with 90% engaging into these would likely become carriers of the disease. While sexual contact is still the leading common cause, it is accounted for only 0.5% to 1%.

Dr. Alejandro said there are plans to create a provincial HIV/AIDS council for Sarangani. A proposal on this, he said, was submitted to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan in 2014.

Last May, health providers in Glan Medicare Community Hospital conducted a crusade to support the global call to end the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Dr. Eden Rose Malanao, Medical Officer V of the hospital, said raising social awareness on the disease was pursued to bring down the “stigma and discrimination” for people living with HIV.

Since the medication is already obtainable, “all it takes is for people from all walks of life to undergo tests to avail of the medicine,” Malanao said. (Beverly C. Paoyon / SARANGANI INFORMATION OFFICE)

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