88 OFWs test positive for HIV

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The HIV virus (Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

MANILA—A total of 88 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) tested positive for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in February, up 22 percent from the same month in 2018, a party- list group said.

ACTS-OFW party-list group said the February cases brought to 6,433 the total number of OFWs found living with HIV since the Philippine government started monitoring HIV cases in 1984.

It said OFWs now comprise 10 percent of the 64,291 confirmed cases listed in the Philippine Department of Health’s National HIV/AIDS Registry.

The OFWs in the registry worked overseas within the past five years, either on land or at sea, when they were diagnosed as HIV-positive, the group said. The DOH did not identify the countries where the infected OFWs were employed.

Of the 6,433 OFWs in the registry, 86 percent, or 5,553, were male with the median age of 32 years while the 880 were female and had a median age of 34 years.

Of the male OFW cases, 72 percent were infected via sexual contact among MSM, or men who have sex with men (2,328 from male-to-male sex and 1,674 from sex with both males and females).

HIV causes AIDS, or the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, which destroys the human body’s natural ability to fight off diseases.

Though the condition still does not have any known cure, antiretroviral therapy has been known to slow down the virus, ACTS-OFW said.

It said the Department of Labor and Employment should deliver “highly-improved support” to the growing number of OFWs living with HIV, as mandated by the new AIDS Prevention and Control Law that took effect earlier this year.

Section 37 of the new law mandates the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, together with other agencies, to develop a program that would provide “stigma-free comprehensive reintegration, care and support for OFWs with HIV,” the group said.

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