HIV risk not about sexuality – experts

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BAGUIO CITY: More than half of reported modes of human immunodeficiency virus or HIV transmission in 2014 was through homosexual contact, latest data from the Philippine HIV and AIDS Registry National Epidemiology Center show. Health authorities, at the same time, stressed that this data is indicative of risky behavior, not sexuality.

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In a recently concluded media briefing by the Philippine Legislators’ Committee in Population and Development (PLCPD), dubbed: “Break barriers, end the trend: Addressing the HIV epidemic in the Philippines,” it was reported that 95 percent of the HIV cases in the Philippines in recent years involved male patients.

It was reported during the media briefing that modes of transmission were sexual contact at 5,649 for the same period, with males to male sex (MSM) as the predominant type of transmission at 2,928 or 52 percent. Bisexual contact is the second most common mode of transmission with 1,861 recorded cases and heterosexual contact with 860 cases.

The PLCPD briefing was given by representatives from the Department of Health-Cordillera and UNAIDS Philippines.

In 2014, there were 6,011 total cases of HIV in the country reported to the HIV and AIDS Registry, making the reported cases from 1984-2014 to a total of 22,527.

In the Cordilleras, the Philippine Information Agency noted that a similar trend can be noted in the region, as data presented by Dr. Julius Cesar Alcala of DOH-CAR show. Of the 41 recorded cases in the entire region from January to December 2014, 18 of those cases were recorded under homosexual mode of transmission. Bisexual contact is also the second most common mode of transmission with 13 recorded cases and heterosexual contact with 10 cases.

But while statistics show that HIV is prevalent among males and commonly transmitted through homosexual contact, UNAIDS Philippines Country Director Bai Bagasao said: “We have to understand that transmission happens because of behavior and has nothing to do with sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Alcala expressed similar views, saying the “fast and furious” epidemic of HIV/AIDS has nothing to do with who has sex but with risky behaviors, including unprotected sex, sharing of needles, among others. He also related lack of knowledge or proper information to the rise of recorded cases.

According to Alcala, the way to address the issue is through multi-sector participation in the age-appropriate information and education drive backed by adequate government funding.

Activities that contribute to the spread of HIV, such as prostitution, remain rampant in Baguio. Reports say that with girls with ages raging from 16 and above offeri sexual services to patrons in the Central Business District. Some time ago, the Office of the City Social Welfare and Development Office, along with the city Police Office raided the popularly known Magsaysay Avenue and accosted about 10 suspected female prostitutes in an effort to curb the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Betty Fangasan, head of the local welfare office took them in at the Silungan Center and taught them vocational courses. After graduation they were given cash as capital for the to start a small business.

But some of the back to Magsaysay Avenue claiming that are not earning enough from their new source of livelihood

“Kahit gusto natin silang tulungan e mismong sarili nila ayaw nilang tulungan at magbagong buhay kaya sa tingin ko ginawa na natin ang misyon natin sa kanila” [Even if we want to help them, we cannot do anything if they do not want to help themselves], Fangasan said.

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