COTABATO CITY– The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) remains at the bottom of the list among regions with cases of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
This comes as the region’s prevalence rate on the disease and infection stayed still at less than one percent by end of October this year. Despite these figures, the Infectious Diseases Cluster (IDC) of the ARMM Department of Health (DOH) warned citizens not to be complacent.
“Whether we like it or not, we have HIV cases in ARMM,” Soraida Amilil, Cluster Head of IDC said. Still, it is important for the public to be properly informed for their prevention and cure, Amilil said, noting the region is targeting zero HIV/AIDS case each year.
As of October this year, 13 cases of HIV have been reported while none emerged as an AIDS case. Nineteen percent of the HIV cases come from the heterosexual demographics, while 81% come from the homosexual demographics, mainly from men who have sex with men.
Dr. Usman said ARMM citizens who travel frequently to major urban centers are more vulnerable to HIV infection. DOH recently reported that 25 people in the Philippines are diagnosed with HIV on a daily basis.
In 2014, the region has reported two AIDS cases, while seven were reported with HIV. Since 1984, the region’s Health department has reported a total of 76 positive cases of HIV while 11 were reported to have led to AIDS.
None of these cases were diagnosed within the region as the provincial health units still lack social hygiene clinics for HIV diagnostic testing, hence these cases were referred to regions 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula), 10 (Northern Mindanao), and 11 (Davao Region) who have the capability to do the screening. This is about to change in 2017 the IDC of DOH-ARMM noted.
Amilil said the agency has been working on the establishment of social hygiene clinics in the region to serve as satellite treatment centers for HIV.
This will be piloted in the province of Tawi-Tawi by 2017, and then in Sulu, being the farthest islands to the mainland. The agency, she added, is currently complying with the requirements set for the treatment centers to be operational by next year.
DOH-ARMM continues to strengthen its AIDS/HIV Prevention and Control Program through campaigns that aim at educating the public, as well as to eliminate the stigma and discrimination associated with people living with HIV and AIDS.
Doctors have been reiterating that the virus is not transmittable by merely socializing with them as it only thrives inside the body and cannot be transmitted by mere skin-to-skin contact. “Hindi ito dapat ikahiya,” Amilil said, noting it is not acquired only through unprotected sexual activities. 90 to 98% of transmission is through blood transfusion, organ transplant, sharing used needles and needle pricks.
There are also preventive measures for HIV leading to AIDS and this is provided free to people living with HIV and AIDS. (Bureau of Public Information)