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HIV cases reach “epidemic” level

CEBU, Philippines - Health officials said the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) cases in the cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu have already reached an "epidemic" proportion.

"We are flagging the red alert and we would like to avert this problem. This is a social problem. We need everyone to be aware on this," said Department of Health-7 director Asuncion Anden during the Kapihan sa PIA yesterday.

Renan Cimafranca, DOH-7 epidemiologist, said that from January to April this year, Cebu City has 27 suspected HIV cases, Mandaue City has five and Lapu-Lapu City has four.

"If you look at it, gamay ra but in previous years, gamay ra ang cases aning mga areas," said Anden.

DOH-7 assistant secretary Pauly Jean Russel Ubial said for February this year, the Philippines has a total of 339 new HIV cases, which is 24 percent higher than the 274 cases recorded in the same period last year.

HIV causes the incurable and deadly Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

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 From 1984 to February of 2013, the Philippines has recorded a total of 11,204 HIV cases, of which 1,217 have developed into AIDS. At least 353 Filipinos have already died of the disease.

According to study, some HIV victims showed no signs of symptoms in the early stage of infection. 

Majority of those who were infected are males (10,758) and most of those infected were ages between 15 years old to 24 years old.

Ubial, however, said that for every case reported, at least ten were undetected or unreported.

"Which means we could have at least 90,000 people who were infected but does not know they have the disease," said Ubial.

For the February 2013 figure, most of those infected with HIV were males (86 percent) with the most number of cases under the age group of 20-29 years old.

The usual mode of transmission was sexual contact with males having sex with other males (82 percent) were the predominant type of transmission.

For February 2013 alone, the bulk of the new HIV cases came from the National Capital Region, Region IVA, Region 3 and Region 7.

"Those who have risky behaviors should have themselves tested on HIV," said Ubial.

Risky behaviors, Anden explained, are those who have multiple sex partners and injecting drug users.

Ubial said the government cannot force an individual to undergo testing for HIV since this is a matter of choice.

While the treatment for HIV is lifetime, Ubial said the government can provide free treatment to patients.

Ubial also noted the increase of HIV cases among injecting drug users who share needles that contributed to the risk factor of contracting the disease.

According to Wikipedia, AIDS is considered a pandemic-a disease outbreak which is present over a large area and is actively spreading. -/LPM (FREEMAN)

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