ONE in every 10 Filipinos with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a migrant worker.
ACTS-OFW party-list Rep. Aniceto “John” Bertiz III consequently urged overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to be aware of the epidemic.
On the occasion of World AIDS Day, Bertiz said an epidemic 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,” Bertiz said.
“OFWs are especially at risk because once they are exposed to foreign cultures, they tend to let their guard down,” he added.
A total of 697 OFWs were newly diagnosed with from January to September this year, up 13.7 percent from 613 in the same period in 2017.
The nine-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 percent 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, he said 5,280, or 86 percent, are male with the median age of 32 years.
Majority of the male cases or 71 percent, 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.
Bertiz urged the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to devote more resources to preventive education among OFWs and their families.
HIV causes AIDS, or the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, which destroys the human body’s natural ability to fight off all kinds of infections. 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.