More than 500 individuals availed of free HIV testing in DOH-MIMAROPA

May 21, 2015 4:53 am 

By Leilani S. Junio

MANILA, May 19 (PNA) — The Department of Health (DOH)-MIMAROPA said on Monday more than 500 individuals in the island provinces of the region voluntarily submitted themselves to the free HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) testing that it conducted from May 11 to 15 in line with the National HIV Free-Testing Program of the DOH central office.

MIMAROPA or Region IV-B comprises of the provinces of Oriental/Occidental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan.

“A total of 512 individuals had undergone counseling and free HIV testing,” said DOH-MIMAROPA Regional Director Dr. Eduardo C. Janairo in an interview with the Philippines News Agency.

Most of those who availed themselves of the free HIV testing were in Palawan, where 413 individuals (consisting of females, males and bisexuals like lesbians, gays and transgenders) overcame their fear of testing through the testing centers rolled out in the province.

Majority of them took the tests at the designated testing centers in the province, like the newly-inaugurated Red Top Center at the Ospital ng Palawan, rural health units and other mobile testing centers initially rolled out for the week-long activity.

In Romblon, a total of 28 individuals took the voluntary testing; five in Oriental Mindoro, and 66 in DOH Regional Office IV-MIMAROPA.

None availed of the free testing in Occidental Mindoro and Marinduque provinces.

Director Janairo said that in the initial tests on the blood samples taken, they had noticed that there were some who were reactive (positive). However, he declined to give specific details about it, saying that the results would still be subject for more confirmatory tests.

Confirmatory tests are undertaken by experts at the DOH's Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Alabang, Muntinlupa City. The experts study and evaluate the results of blood samples taken from the individuals who voluntarily agree for free HIV testing being offered by the government through the DOH and its regional offices nationwide.

Dr. Janairo said the names of those who will turn out positive will remain confidential.

He explained that the testing is done to determine the number of people who are infected with HIV in order to remove the fear and stigma associated with undergoing testing.

According to him, it is about time that people will begin changing their outlook toward subjecting themselves to HIV testing, wherein some will think that because a person is availing of the test, it is indicative that the individual has acquired HIV.

“Let’s change that attitude. It is time to look at the testing procedure just like an ordinary urinalysis as a preventive approach. It's good if the test will yield negative; if it yields positive, there can be counseling given to the HIV positive individual so that he will not fear about or lose hope for his condition,” the DOH regional director said.

He added that the purpose of the test is to know one’s status about his or her health so that the government can help an individual not becoming an agent of HIV spread to others susceptible to it but someone who can help in the DOH fight versus HIV/AIDS.

Dr. Janairo said that for those who yield negative results on the tests, counseling will help them to be aware of ways of protecting themselves as well from HIV and can encourage other people they know and care about that there are protective mechanisms that can be used to counter it like protective sex (use of condoms, although not 100 percent safe); practicing monogamous relationship; abstinence; avoiding needle sharing and be careful also about blood transfusion.

He added that for those who turn positive, counseling will continue to inform them that there are ARV (anti-retroviral) medicines that can help them cope so that their immune system will not entirely be destroyed by HIV.

While ARV is not an exact cure for HIV, the medicine, when taken regularly will help the HIV positive people to prolong their lives, do normal functioning provided that they follow the health advice of doctors so that their body can fight the occurrence of “opportunistic infections” that worsen due to HIV like tuberculosis and pneumonia.

In addition, HIV positive people given with ARV medicines are advised to discontinue their negative vices like constant drinking of alcoholic beverage and smoking because their immune system is being weakened by HIV.

While ARV helps in controlling the spread of the virus, there will be conflict or the medicine will not completely work out if the one taking it is engaging in negative vices that are not good for the body.

The medication will have to be taken for lifetime and costly.

The DOH, under the leadership of Secretary Janette L. Garin, in its continuous efforts to fight HIV/AIDS, has heightened the campaign against it by increasing the budget to address it for this year.

This fight of DOH against HIV is supported by the increased budget of DOH for the program wherein the previous budget of PhP100 million was increased to PhP300 million for this year.

In addition, the fight versus HIV is included in the DOH's five health priority agenda for this year.

With the increased budget, the DOH is able to stretch its services towards free HIV testing, free drugs (ARV), and increase the facilities that can provide screening and counselling. (PNA)

SCS/LSJ

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