A coalition of migrant Filipino workers on Friday expressed fears over the continuing increase in the number of workers like them who continue to be diagnosed with the immunodeficiency virus.
This was after 505 of those workers were found positive for the disease from January to June this year, or up 14 percent from the same period last year.
ACTS-OFW chairman Aniceto Bertiz III said the cumulative number of Filipino workers found living with HIV as of June had reached 6,760―5,844 men (86 percent) and 916 women (14 percent)―since the government began passive surveillance in 1984.
Their median ages were 32 for the men and 34 for the women, Bertiz said.
“We are urging returning [Filipino workers], including sailors, who suspect that they may have acquired HIV while working abroad, to get themselves tested,” Bertiz said.
“Prompt testing is the key to timely detection and early treatment.
“A growing number of Filipinos living with HIV continue to live healthy and productive lives, precisely because they are undergoing highly active treatment being provided for free by the government.”
Bertiz earlier said the total number of migrant Filipino workers found living with HIV was likely to breach the 7,000-mark by the end of the year at the rate new cases were getting detected.
Migrant Filipino workers now represent 10 percent of the 68,401 confirmed cases listed in the National HIV/AIDS Registry as of June, Bertiz said on Friday.
The Filipinos in the registry worked abroad within the past five years―either on land or at sea―when they were diagnosed HIV-positive, Bertiz said.
He said 61 percent of the Filipinos in the registry were from Metro Manila, Calabarzon and Central Luzon.
HIV causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or AIDS, which destroys the human body’s natural ability to fight off all kinds of bacterial, viral and fungal infections.
Tuberculosis is the leading cause of death among the people living with HIV, according to the World Health Organization.
While HIV still does not have any known cure, early and sustained anti-retroviral treatment has been known to effectively keep a patient’s virus load suppressed.