According to a recent announcement by the Philippine National AIDS Council, every day, an average of 32 Filipinos are tested positive for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), the infection that would most likely lead to full-blown Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
On the occasion of World AIDS Day this December 1, the party-list group ACTS-OFW called for “heightened vigilance” against an epidemic that has infected nearly 60,000 Filipinos and killed almost 3,000.
“Fighting AIDS through greater awareness and prevention is a top priority for us because one in 10 Filipinos living with HIV is a migrant worker,” said the party-list group.
“OFWs are especially at risk because once they are exposed to foreign cultures, they tend to let their guard down,” the group said.
A total of 697 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) were newly diagnosed with HIV from January to September this year, up 13.7% from 613 in the same period in 2017, according to the group.
The 9-month figures brought to 6,135 the cumulative number of OFWs found infected with HIV since the government began passive surveillance in 1984.
All told, OFWs with HIV now account for 10% of the 59,135 confirmed cases in the National HIV/AIDS Registry as of September this year.
Of the 6,135 OFWs in the registry, the group revealed that 5,280, or 86%, are male with the median age of 32 years.
Majority of the male cases, or 71%, were infected through sexual contact among MSM, or men who have sex with men (2,176 from male-to-male sex and 1,586 from sex with both males and females).
The median age of female OFWs in the registry is 34 years.
The group urged the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to devote more resources to preventive education among OFWs and their families.
AIDS destroys the human body’s natural ability to fight off all kinds of infections. This progressive failure of the immune system allows life-threatening opportunistic infections and cancers to thrive. Without treatment, average survival time after infection with HIV is estimated to be 9 to 11 years. The condition still does not have any known cure.
Antiretroviral treatment (ART) has been known to slow down the advance of HIV in cases detected early.
At least 31,458 Filipinos living with HIV were listed as undergoing ART as of September, according to the Department of Health.