HIV infects 3,175, kills 303 in Region 6

By: Emme Rose Santiagudo

Despite the relentless campaign of the Department of Health-Center for Health Development (DOH-CHD)-6, the number of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cases in the region spiked to 3,175, with 303 deaths.

The number reflected the cumulative HIV cases from 1986 to February 2019, according to Christine Mosqueda, DOH Regional Sexually Transmitted Infection Assistant Nurse Coordinator.

“All six provinces and highly-urbanized cities are already reporting HIV cases,” Mosqueda said.

The region ranked fifth in terms of the highest percentage of newly diagnosed cases per region in the month of February, accounting for 7 percent of total cases reported.

Based on DOH-6 data, Iloilo City has the highest number of HIV cases at 791, followed by Iloilo Province at 666, Negros Occidental (554), Bacolod City (506), Capiz (222), Aklan (209), Antique (164), and Guimaras (63).

Mosqueda attributed the increasing HIV cases in Iloilo City to the number of established treatment hubs and pre-testing centers in the metro.

“Aton i-consider, Iloilo City is the capital of Region 6 and there a lot of regional offices, civil society groups and technical and funding support from national to international. That translates to the increasing HIV cases,” she said.

Mosqueda clarified that the 791 HIV cases in the city may have been infected outside the metro or in other regions/areas.

“Indi man mag-translate nga diri nakuha, pwede man gakadto sila sa iban na regions and wala lang kita kabalo. We always emphasize that indi nga tanan nga 791 are currently living in the city, basi amo lang na ila declaration,” Mosqueda said.

From January to February 2019, the health department recorded 163 HIV cases. Of this number, 154 are males, Mosqueda reported.

While males having sex with males accounted for the highest number of HIV cases, Mosqueda emphasized that the main driver of HIV is unprotected sex.

“If you are doing unprotected sex, then that would potentially put you at risk of HIV and much more if you engage with multiple partners,” she said.

As part of its new strategy, the health department is now preparing to use rapid HIV diagnostic algorithm (rHIVda) laboratories.

According to Mosqueda, since there is only one confirmatory laboratory for HIV in the country, results are slow to come in, hence the increasing number of deaths.

Through the rHIVda, Mosqueda said screening tests will no longer be sent to the national laboratory for confirmation.

“Subong kay damo testing centers, lagging ang pag-release sang results and confirmatory would be around a month. With rHIVda laboratories, where series of screening tests will be conducted, if the patient registered two to three positive results, good as confirmatory na and no need to send sa national except for other special cases,” she explained.

As of now, the health department is eyeing West Visayas State University Medical Center as a potential site for the rHIVda.

Mosqueda said they are only waiting for the certification to be issued to the WVSU to start the operations of RHIVda.

“We are very lucky WVSU is a site for rHIVda, ara pa siya sa process of certification but we hope to operationalize it within this year. They are actually ready with all the trained personnel and equipment, certification na lang ang kulang,” he said.

Aside from WVSU, the health department is also targeting Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital as a rHIVda site.