Issue of September 9, 2018
Mt. Province

71th Courier Anniversary Issue
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HSO monitors behavior of HIV-vulnerable grps in city
by Pamela Mariz Geminiano / PNA

The city government’s social hygiene clinic continues to monitor the behavior of men having sex with men (MSM) and transgender (TG) women in the city as a way to curb the increasing incidence of acquired human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cases in the city.

The City Health Services Office tagged these sectors as HIV-vulnerable.

Dr. Celia Flor Brillantes, chief of Baguio’s social hygiene clinic, said the clinic started implementing the HIV Integrated Behavioral Serologic Surveillance System, targeting the MSM and TG women.

“The goal of the activity is to determine if there has been a change in the behavior of the sector,” said Brillantes, adding that this would be the basis for determining appropriate courses of action.

“There is a steady increase of HIV positive all over the country,’ she said, adding 31 HIV infections are recorded daily nationwide.

Statistics showed that majority of the cases are men, mostly MSM. Their number is thrice the number of women with HIV.

“It’s a behavior that we really want to change with the use of condom and the reduction of partners, multiplicity of partners,” she said.

“We are the number one country in the whole world with HIV infection with a 179 percent increase,” she added.

The target of the surveillance is 300 MSMs until October, Brillantes said, and it will be a sample population, which will be the basis for coming up with programs addressing the increasing cases among the sector.

She added those found infected with HIV are not female sex workers, but young professionals.

MSMs, who were found positive, are mostly male sex workers, she said.

“We do surveillance and find out the places frequented by the MSM. We do blood extraction, which the sector also supports, to know their HIV status,” Brillantes said.

The HIV surveillance team is composed of interviewers, majority of whom are from the Department of Health.

The group also invited some people connected with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.

“The goal, which is a national program of the government, is for MSM to have a change in behavior for them to really use condom, for them not to have HIV infection, and to reduce, if not stop, having multiple partners, and prevent acquiring the disease,” Brillantes said.

She said the DOH had been doing the surveillance since 1996 because of the increasing number of HIV cases in the country.

Before, she said, it was done every year, then it was reduced to every two years. Since 2015, it has been done only every three years because change in behavior does not happen quickly.

Brillantes said although HIV is still prevalent in Baguio, the incidence rate of recorded HIV infection in the city has recently gone down from one case a week to one case every two weeks.

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