The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) under the Department of Health (DOH), held an HIV and AIDs awareness forum dubbed “Hi,V! Mag-ilhanay Ta: A Forum on HIV/AIDS Awareness and the Youth for Region VII” at the Cebu Normal University (CNU) recently.
Hi, V! is a part of Rated+ (Rated Plus), an awareness caravan by DOH-RITM that aims to promote a safe and open discourse on HIV/AIDs among the youth.
The forum began with a film showing of “Bakit Ako?”, the winning piece by De La Salle, Dasmarinas from last year’s Strain Film Exposition organized by DOH’s AIDS Research Group (ARG).
It was followed by an open forum tackling HIV myths and facts, stigma, treatment, and a testimonial from an HIV positive person.
There was also free HIV testing for the attendees and students.
“We want to tap those who are at risk. Your group of millennials are at risk,” Dr. Mark Kristoffer Pasayan, an Infectious Disease Specialist of RITM, told the participants as he explained why they are bringing the awareness fora to universities.
He revealed that there have been 30 new HIV cases reported in a day for this year, a big jump from the data in 2008 when one case was reported per day.
According to the HIV and Aids Registry of the Philippines (HARP) report, HIV reached the highest number of cases in May 2017 with 1,098 since 1984.
Out of total, one fourth are from the 15 to 24 age group, said Dr. Pasayan.
“As the years go by, as the numbers continue to increase, the people who get infected and diagnosed with HIV are getting younger and younger. [We] reach out to the college students to help them and bring awareness to this age group,” he stressed.
Among the regions, Central Visayas ranks third with the highest number of HIV/AIDs cases.
The National Capital Region (NCR) ranks first followed by Region 4A.
Another panelist, Cebu Plus Association Program Manager Jhay Encabo, said Cebu has the highest prevalence on HIV especially on cases of men having sex with men (MSM).
However, the numbers only reflect those who voluntarily submitted themselves for testing.
Encabo explained the concept of ‘outer circle’ or when the youth see themselves as invincible and that HIV will hit others but not themselves, is what usually prevents them from getting tested.
Dr. Pasayan stressed that early detection is key to treating HIV.
“If you know your status early, we can diagnose early and help you early. Don’t put yourself in a situation that your doctors can no longer help you,” he said.
“Life doesn’t end after diagnosis. We have seen those infected became much closer to their parents and social circles,” Encabo assured.
Dr. Pasayan explained that HIV or the human immunodeficiency virus is transmitted through unprotected sexual contact, shared needles, mother to child via breastfeeding, and blood transfusion. (asv/PIA-7-Cebu)