PROJECTIONS that the number of HIV-positive overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) is likely to surpass the 7,000 mark this year provide a major challenge for concerned government authorities.
In fact, OFWs now represent 10 percent of the aggregate 67,395 confirmed cases listed in the National HIV/AIDS Registry as of May 2019, according to the ACTS-OFW Coalition of Organizations.
“The cumulative number of OFWs confirmed as HIV-positive could reach more than 7,200 by the end of the year at the rate new cases are being discovered,” said ACTS-OFW chair Aniceto Bertiz III.
Bertiz said that during the first five months of the year, a total of 444 newly-confirmed HIV-positive OFWs were reported, up 21 percent from the 369 recorded in the same period in 2018.
HIV causes the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), which destroys the human body’s natural ability to fight off all kinds of bacterial, viral and fungal infections.
Of the 6,699 OFWs in the National HIV/AIDS Registry, 86 percent or 5,792 were male, with the median age of 32 years. The 907 female OFWs in the registry had a median age of 34 years.
Like other Filipinos, we share the view of the ACTS-OFW chair that returning migrant workers who suspect that they may have acquired HIV ought to have themselves tested.
Although HIV does not have any known cure, sustained antiretroviral treatment (ART) keeps the virus suppressed.
Reports said that what is important is for the infection to be diagnosed and remedied early.
The increasing number of OFWs with HIV must be addressed now – and fast – if we are to maintain our standing as one of the world’s principal sources of highly-dependable manpower.