KALIBO, Aklan – The Provincial Health Office (PHO) here urged pregnant women to undergo a free screening of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
PHO officer Debbie Villaflor said this was due to the increasing number of persons living with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV infection which can take from 2 to 15 years to develop depending on the individual.
“From 1984 to June this year, we recorded at least 229 cases of HIV/AIDS. Around 13 of them already died,” Villaflor said during the Aklan Provincial AIDS Council meeting on Wednesday.
Dr. Leilani Barrios, meanwhile, said that as of September this year, around 117 Persons Living with HIV/AIDS were undergoing antiretroviral therapy (ARV) at a hospital here.
The ART suppresses the HIV virus and stops the progression of the disease.
“The youngest taking an ART three years ago is a 15-year-old boy who was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. Now he is already 18 years old and still the youngest,” said Barrios.
Due to the trend, the PHO encouraged pregnant women to undergo screening and checking of their health status.
“We are assuring pregnant women of confidentiality once they undergo the free HIV/AIDS screening,” Barrios said.
Dr. Athena Magdamit, president of the Association of Municipal Health Officers of the Philippines-Aklan said she requested training from the PHO on how to deal with pregnant women who may be affected by the disease.
The HIV targets the immune system and weakens people’s defense systems against infections and some types of cancer. As the virus destroys and impairs the function of immune cells, infected individuals gradually become “immunodeficient,” according to the WHO.
It said the HIV continues to be a major global public health issue, having claimed over 32-million lives so far. In 2018, 770,000 people died from HIV-related causes globally.
Global ART coverage for pregnant and breastfeeding women living with HIV is high at 80 percent, it added.
There were approximately 37.9-million people living with HIV at the end of 2018 with 1.7-million people becoming newly infected in the same year globally, said the WHO.
HIV infection is often diagnosed through rapid diagnostic tests, which detect the presence or absence of HIV antibodies. Most often these tests provide same-day test results, which are essential for same day diagnosis and early treatment and care, it added.(With WHO/PN)