VERY serious is the increase of the number of AIDS-stricken OFWs.
This calls for the passage of the proposed new AIDS Prevention and Control Law, or Senate Bill 186, which was introduced by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago.
The bill seeks to improve the living conditions of HIV-positive people through greater access to treatment, care and support. It also sets tougher penalties for entities and individuals who discriminate against HIV-positive people as well as those who violate their rights to confidentiality
The warning was articulated in a press statement issued on Saturday, August 30, 2014, by the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines titled “ Cumulative number of stricken OFWs exceeds 3,000 for the first time.”
A total of 379 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs)— 334 males and 45 females—were found human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive from January to July this year, the TUCP, said.
The 379 represents an increase of 23 percent, or 70 cases, versus the 309 OFWs found HIV-positive over the same seven-month period in 2013, TUCP President and former Senator Ernesto Herrera, who is a Manila Times columnist said.
Herrera said 378 of the stricken OFWs acquired the infection through sexual transmission, including 152 cases via male-to-male sexual contact.
“There was one case wherein the OFW was an intravenous drug user, and was infected by a tainted needle,” said Herrera, former chairman of the Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources development.
HIV causes the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, or AIDS. While the disease that destroys the immune system does not have any known cure, the World Health Organization says “huge reductions have been seen in rates of death and suffering when use is made of a potent antiretroviral regimen, particularly in early stages.”
“The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Department of Health and the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. should see to it that every OFW found HIV-positive is able to avail of cost-free Anti-Retroviral Therapy in accredited treatment hubs,” Herrera urged.
“We are also urging Malacañang to certify the proposed new AIDS Prevention and Control Law, or Senate Bill 186, introduced by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago,” Herrera added.
The bill seeks to improve the living conditions of HIV-positive people through greater access to treatment, care and support. It also sets tougher penalties for entities and individuals who discriminate against HIV-positive people as well as those who violate their rights to confidentiality.
An aggregate of 3,017 OFWs with the median age of 34 now comprise 15 percent of the 19,915 cases in the Philippine HIV and AIDS Registry as of July 31, 2014. The Registry began passive surveillance of the disease in 1984.
According to the Registry, some 98 percent of all HIV-positive OFWs, or 2,951 cases, acquired the virus on account of sexual contact.
Some 81 percent of all HIV-positive OFWs, or 2,456 cases, are males, and 834 of them, or 28 percent, were infected due to male-to-male sexual contact.
HIV is being spread primarily through sexual contact, predominantly male-to-male sex, and secondarily via needle-sharing among injecting drug users or the transfusion of contaminated blood, according to the Philippine National AIDS Council.
The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) is the nation’s largest democratic labor center, with member-federations forming a General Council.
TUCP is affiliated with the Brussels, Belgium-based International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the global voice of the world’s working people.