AT LEAST 505 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) were diagnosed human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive from January to June this year, up 12 percent from the 451 discovered in the same period in 2018, the ACTS-OFW Coalition of Organizations said yesterday.
“The cumulative number of OFWs found living with HIV as of June has reached 6,760 -- 5,844 men (86 percent) and 916 women (14 percent) -- since the government began passive surveillance in 1984,” said ACTS-OFW chairman Aniceto Bertiz III, a former congressman.
Bertiz noted that their median ages are 32 for men and 34 for women .
“We are urging returning OFWs, including sailors, who suspect that they may have acquired HIV while working abroad, to get themselves tested .
“Prompt testing is the key to timely detection and early treatment,” Bertiz pointed out.
“A growing number of Filipinos living with HIVcontinue to live healthy and productive lives precisely because they are undergoing highly active treatment being provided for free by the government,” he added. Bertiz said the aggregate number of OFWs found living with HIV is likely to breach the 7,000-mark by yearend, at the rate new cases are getting detected.
OFWs now represent 10 percent of the entire 68,401 confirmed cases listed in the National HIV/AIDS Registry as of June, Bertiz said.
The OFWs in the registry worked abroad inside the past five years -- either on land or at sea -- when they were diagnosed HIV-positive, Bertiz said.
Bertiz said 61 percent of the OFWs in the registry were from Metro Manila, Calabarzon and Central Luzon.
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.
Tuberculosis (TB) is the leading cause of death among people living with HIV, according to the World Health Organization.
While HIV still does not have any known cure, early and sustained antiretroviral treatment (ART) has been known to effectively keep a patient’s virus load suppressed.