Number of new cases of OFWs with HIV/AIDS up 32 percent in January
A total of 90 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) were diagnosed with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in January, up by 32 percent when compared to the 68 cases reported during the same month in 2018, a party-list group said.
The Department of Health in Manila also said that the total number of OFWs who had HIV/AIDS increased by 910 cases for the whole year of 2018.
The new cases involved OFWs who worked abroad on land or at sea in the last five years, the DOH said.
“The January cases brought to 6,345 the cumulative number of OFWs found living with HIV since the government began passive surveillance of the virus in 1984,” the group Acts-OFW said.
OFWs now comprise 10 percent of the 63,278 confirmed cases listed in the National HIV/AIDS Registry as of January, it added.
Of the 6,345 OFWs in the registry, 86 percent, or 5,471, were male with the median age of 32 years. The 874 female OFWs in the registry had a median age of 34 years.
Of the male OFW cases, 72 percent were found infected via sexual contact among MSM, or men who have sex with men (2,283 from male-to-male sex and 1,651 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 all kinds of infections.
Though the condition still does not have any known cure, antiretroviral therapy has been known to slow down the virus.
The party-list group said it was counting on the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to 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 Jan. 25.
Section 37 of the new law compels the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and other agencies to develop a program to provide stigma-free comprehensive reintegration, care and support for OFWs with HIV, the group said.
“Under the law, the economic, social and medical support is to be extended to all OFWs, regardless of employment status and stage in the migration process,” it added.
Section 17 of the law also requires all OFWs as well as Philippine government staff for foreign posting to undergo a seminar on the causes, manner of prevention, and impact of HIV and AIDS.