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Friday, May 15, 2015

‘M2M’, freelance sex workers in Zambo highly prone to HIV - CHO

By Dominic I. Sanchez

ZAMBOANGA CITY – People who have “high risk sexual behaviors” especially those who engage in male-to-male (M2M) sex and freelance sex workers are very prone to develop Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and other sexually-transmitted diseases, according to Assistant City Health Officer Dr. Kibtiya Uddin.

In a press conference Monday (May 11), Dr. Uddin explained that the city has already reached 2.7 percent prevalence rate for HIV as per the 2013 HIV surveillance, which is coming dangerously close to the 5 percent threshold – when cities are already classified with a “concentrated epidemic”. The cities of Cebu, Manila, Quezon City and Davao are now classified under this threshold. The next surveillance will be done on May 18 to June 12 this year.

“We are already in high risk,” Dr. Uddin emphasized.
From 1995 until the present, the City Health Office (CHO) has recorded 137 cases of HIV. In 2013, there were 24 cases, and this number more than doubled in 2014 to 46. For January until present, 11 cases were already recorded. From 1995 until now, 25 persons have already died from HIV.

Dr. Uddin warned the public that if the city will reach the 5 percent prevalence rate, it would be very difficult to reduce that number. “Right now, we have to do something,” she said, referring to intensified advocacies in schools, workplaces and other areas for the prevention of the spread of the virus.

With regard to this, the city will hold its first City AIDS Congress and the AIDS Candlelight Memorial on May 14.

The CHO is spearheading the National HIV Testing Week on May 11-15. Dr. Uddin encouraged residents who suspect themselves afflicted with the virus to undergo free confidential screening at the CHO in Pettit Barracks. The screening will run from 4-7 p.m. this week.

On the other hand, the HIV monitoring and counseling team will also conduct direct surveillance in identified key affected areas.

In February this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that out of 586 afflicted with HIV through sex, 84 percent are cases of homosexual contact.