Contrary to popular belief, the majority of those who get infected with the deadly Human immunodeficiency virus infection / acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) in the country are highly educated.
Dr. Ferchito Avelino of the Philippine National Aids Council (PNAC) made the disclosure at the sidelines of the Technical Working Group meeting on House Bill 3243, which seeks to strengthen the country’s comprehensive policy on the prevention, treatment and care of HIV/AIDS patients as well as to protect their rights and freedoms.
“Normally, when we talk about HIV/AIDS, we think that those who get infected are those who dropped out of school, or those who never went to school at all, and thus they have very little knowledge about the disease. But you will be surprised that most people contracting HIV virus are highly educated. Mga inglesero [sila]at maporma (They speak English fluently and they sport nice clothes),” Avelino told reporters.
Avelino said that as of 2013, one Filipino gets infected with the HIV for every one hour and 43 minutes—a staggering increase compared with the 2007 figures wherein one Filipino is infected with HIV every 24 hours.
“It [profile of HIV infected persons]shows that it is not about lack of knowledge, but translating this knowledge to behavioral change. We still need to encourage people who have multiple sex partners and are sexually active to practice safe sex,” Avelino pointed out.
“Sadly, we see a very low rate of condom use in our population, and one way of protecting yourself and your partner from potential infection is using condoms,” Avelino added.
Moreover, Avelino pushed for the provider-initiated testing wherein a health or service provider would no longer wait for a person to seek information on HIV testing but instead go on an aggressive stance by convincing those belonging in the population at high risk of contracting HIV to get tested.
“In the country, HIV testing is free. If a person turns positive, there are already facilities and services that are available for free. What we would want is for the infected person to get immediate treatment so you can still be a productive, contributing partner of the community,” Avelino said.