HIV-infected OFWs up 73%

altAt least 166 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) were found human immunodeficiency virus(HIV)-positive in the seven months to July this year, up 73 percent compared to the 96 diagnosed over the same period in 2010.

 Citing National HIV and AIDS Registry statistics, LPG/MA Rep. Arnel Ty said the fresh cases brought to 1,688 the cumulative number of OFWs known infected with the highly contagious virus that destroys the immune system.“OFWs are exceptionally at high risk of acquiring HIV. Once they are exposed to foreign cultures, they tend to be more sexually active and put their guard down,” Ty said.

 “Commercial sex is also more readily available abroad. In fact, prostitution is legalized some countries that host our OFWs,” he pointed out.

 Unprotected sexual contact remains the predominant way by which HIV is being transferred, according to the World Health Organization.HIVcauses AIDS, or the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, which has no known cure. However, treatments can slow the advance of the disease.

 Ty is author of a House resolution pushing for a wide-ranging congressional review of the 13-year-old AIDS Prevention and Control Law. He has been batting for a bigger budget for AIDS prevention, stronger measures to suppress HIV, and more responsive programs to improve the welfare of the growing number of Filipinos living with the virus.

 “We intend to find out whether the (Philippine) agencies concerned are adequately performing their duties with respect to preventive AIDS education among OFWs,” Ty said.

 Under Republic Act 8504, or the AIDS Prevention and Control Law of 1998, he said OFWs are among the high-risk groups targeted for precautionary education drives.Of the 166 OFWs found HIV positive in the seven months to July, Ty said 85 percent (141) were males and 15 percent (25) were females. All were infected via unprotected sexual contact.

 He said the cumulative 1,688 HIV positive OFWs now comprise 23 percent of all cases in the National HIV and AIDS Registry. Of the 1,688, he said 76 percent (1,286) were males and 24 percent (402) were females. Their median age was 35 years.Since 1984, the National HIV and AIDS Registry has passively detected a total of 7,235 cases, including 1,220 new infections discovered in the seven months to July.