The Valenzuela City Health Office (VCHO) is tapping the support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) community in the city for its campaign to control the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
City Health Department OIC Dr. JaimeExconde said the office is partnering with local socio-civic organization Dignified Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Association (DLGBTA) to promote the city government’s HIV/AIDS control and awareness programs.
DLGBTA members would become ‘peer educators’ who would talk about HIV/AIDS prevention in their respective communities, Dr. Exconde said. DLGBTA members underwent their first training as peer educators on November 26, 2013.
The VCHO formed the group on August 2013 to become a partner organization as well as to serve as the alliance of all LGBT groups in the city. DLGBTA today has 37 members.
“We have to organize gay people,” said DLGBTA Public Relations Officer George Nicolas. “Though there are existing gay groups in different barangays today, we still need a venue where all these groups can interact.”
“We need to show other cities that the local government and gay people in Valenzuela City are united in the goal to end the spread of HIV/AIDS,” Nicolas added.
Among the city government’s programs is a free HIV testing service at the Valenzuela City Social Hygiene Clinic.
VCHO Coordinator for STI and HIV/AIDS Dr. Josefina Diaz said that since the launch of the service last July 2013, more than 100 persons have undergone the test, mostly tuberculosis patients and female sex workers. So far, only one has tested HIV-positive.
Dr. Diaz is encouraging men having unprotected sex with other men (MSM) to have themselves tested for HIV infection.
“MSM comprise the highest number of HIV-positive cases in the country today,” said Dr. Diaz. “They have outnumbered cases involving female sex workers.”
The National Epidemiology Center has reported that HIV-positive cases in the Philippines reported from 1984 to 2013 number 14, 025. HIV spreads at a rate of 13 people every day.
In 2012, the UNAIDS ranked the Philippines 9th among countries with the highest increase in reported cases from 2001 to 2011.
MSM make 5,722 or 44 per cent, the most common mode of transmission of HIV in the country.
Citing data from the National Epidemiology Center, Dr. Diaz said the number of Valenzuela City residents who are HIV-positive cases reported from1984 to 2013 have reached 145. Of this, four have become persons with AIDS.
“One case is already too many,” said Dr. Diaz. “Besides, this number is just the tip of the iceberg. Much of the HIV situation in Valenzuela City remains unreported.”
The Social Hygiene Clinic at the Valenzuela City Government Complex is open every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. Dr. Diaz is assuring clients that the names of those who would undergo the test will be kept confidential.