Davao HIV cases mostly from men to men

Subscribe Now May 10, 2013 at 09:31am

Men having sex with men (MSM) is the dominant mode of transmitting the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) here, the head of the city government’s Reproductive Health and Wellness Center told BusinessWorld on Monday.

Dr. Jordana P. Ramiterre said her office has been attending to about 10 new HIV cases per month starting January, noting nine of those tested and confirmed caught the virus from male-to-male sex. Not all these patients, however, are from the city, many are from nearby regions.

“(The victim could be a) bisexual, a homosexual, or a straight guy who has sex with another male for economic reason,” she said. Among the group of patients, many are 20 to 29 years old but the youngest case, she said, involves a 17-year-old student.

Alvin V. Amoguis, HIV committee chairman at the Brokenshire Integrated Hospital Ministries, Inc., an NGO that receives help from US donors, said MSM is a high-risk behavior considering it could involve multiple partners.

There is no available accurate data on those involved in MSM in the city, Mr. Amoguis said, but it is assumed that the number of individuals in this type of relationship has been rising since 2009. About 400 individuals with MSM experience that have approached local health centers for testing, he said.

“But it’s just the tip of the iceberg since many don’t want to be tested,” Mr. Amoguis said. “Young people are sexually active nowadays. Exploration happens during the adolescent period,” Ms. Ramiterre said, noting the heavy influence of media and online social network sites that make today’s young generation “more liberated.”

Another major institution that collates data on HIV here is the government-run Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) where patients are given medication and treated with the help of external organizations for psycho-social support, she said. SPMC is regarded as the most advanced medical center in Mindanao attracting patients from all over the island.

Apart from giving free and confidential HIV testing, the Reproductive Health and Wellness Center and other institutions here also provide HIV education and prevention, even going down to the barangay level.

“HIV is a retrovirus. Patients have to take anti-virus drugs for life. But HIV patients don’t have to die early,” said Ms. Ramiterre. “HIV victims are dying because they were never tested. You would never know you have the disease unless you have a blood test,” she said.

Source: bworldonline.com

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