On the occasion of World AIDS Day, a party-list lawmaker on Saturday called for “heightened vigilance” against the epidemic that has infected nearly 60,000 Filipinos and killed almost 3,000.
“Fighting AIDS through greater awareness and prevention is a top priority for us because one in 10 Filipinos living with HIV is a migrant worker,” said ACTS-OFW Rep. Aniceto Bertiz III.
“OFWs are especially at risk because once they are exposed to foreign cultures, they tend to let their guard down,” Bertiz said.
A total of 697 overseas Filipino workers were newly diagnosed with HIV or the human immunodeficiency virus from January to September this year, up by 13.7 percent from 613 for the same period in 2017, according to Bertiz.
The nine-month figure brought to 6,135 the cumulative number of OFWs found infected with HIV since the government began passive surveillance in 1984.
OFWs with HIV now account for 10 percent of the 59,135 confirmed cases in the National HIV/AIDS Registry as of September this year, Bertiz said.
Of the 6,135 OFWs in the registry, he said 5,280 or 86 percent are male with the median age of 32 years.
Majority of the male cases, or 71 percent, were infected through sexual contact among MSM, or men who have sex with men.
The median age of female OFWs in the registry is 34 years.
Bertiz urged the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to devote more resources to preventive education among OFWs and their families.