19 Filipinos test postive for HIV in HK

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Li shows how an HIV blood test is done with a volunteer

NINETEEN Filipinos tested positive for HIV (the human immunodeficiency virus) here in Hong Kong since 2013, according to data from the HK Department of Health.

Johnny Li Choi Hing, Senior Programme Manager at the Hong Kong AIDS Foundation, said the number of Filipino nationals who tested positive in the city had been “going down or had become stable” in recent years, unlike among Indonesians.

“We find a more dangerous situation for Indonesian girls,” Mr. Li said in an interview with Hong Kong News.

Among Filipino nationals, seven tested positive in 2013, five in 2014, three in 2015, and four in 2016, he said. But among Indonesians, the number of those who tested positive for HIV rose from six in 2013, to 13 in 2014, 17 in 2015, and then to 20 in 2016. The cause of transmission was sexual contact.

“I would say this is alarming because it was only six cases (before) becoming 20 cases in just four years. And every year, we still find a new case,” Li said.

“If we don’t take any action, this could become a serious problem,” he added.

Li said that, based on the experience of the Hong Kong AIDS Foundation, Filipino women were more aware about the dangers of HIV and how to avoid it.

“According to our experience, there is a difference of education. Some girls coming from the Philippines, they are more well-educated. They know if something is dangerous..(that) if I have a relationship with someone, you have to use a condom,” he said.

“Indonesians are also younger and so they easily trust other people. So, we have to provide an education program for the Indonesian community for them to do something to protect themselves,” he added.

Li said Indonesian or Filipino women who have sexual relations with foreign men in Hong Kong should use protection.

“Some of our clients, they get infected in Hong Kong because they meet other guys coming from other countries. The guys would tell the girl, “Oh, we can get married and have a family and stay in Hong Kong, but then it turns out the guy is just a liar,” he said.

Li said the Hong Kong AIDS Foundation provides counselling for those who tested positive and also refers them to government clinics so that they could get the necessary medical treatment.

“A lot of the girls (who tested positive) feel surprised. They don’t believe and say ‘No, I don’t think so. I just have a regular boyfriend. He just has a problem so he went back to his own country. He will come back to me,'” Li said.

He said people who engaged in risky sexual behaviour should have themselves tested only after a “three-month window period” after they engaged in risky sex to avoid any “false negative” test results.

For domestic workers who want to have themselves tested, the Hong Kong AIDS Foundation offers free and anonymous testing on Sundays. They can be reached at 2513-0513 or email at hkaf@hkaf.com.

“They don’t have to show their Hong Kong ID and they can have the test results after 15 minutes,” Li said.

He said having HIV is not a death sentence since, if the virus is detected early, the patient can still get treatment to prevent the disease from becoming a full-blown AIDS case.

“If you get early treatment, it can be controlled very well. They will not die of this disease. But if they lose good treatment time, they face a serious health problem,” Li said. “Those infected with HIV still feel good (initially). They still walk around and so on. But five years later, their immune system is destroyed by the virus.”

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