Dr. Eric Tayag of the Department of Health (DoH) said that although overseas Filipino workers are not considered most at risk population as regards HIV/AIDS, they are considered as a vulnerable group.
“OFWs are not considered most at risk population unlike female sex workers and men who have sex with men, or those who inject drugs. They are, however, a vulnerable group,” he stressed.
A former Filipino seafarer, who wished to speak on condition of anonimity, said the practice of some Filipino seafarers of soliciting the services of female sex workers when they dock in foreign ports exposes them to the disease.
According to AIDS.org, “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 to 1.2 million U.S. residents are living with HIV infection or AIDS; about a quarter of them do not know they have it. About 75% of the 40,000 new infections each year are in men, and about 25% in women. About half of the new infections are in Blacks, even though they make up only 12% of the US population.”
According to Dr. Tayag, however, HIV/AIDS in Filipinos is still low. But if proper care and change in lifestyle are not met, the numbers could very well increase.
The latest HIV/AIDS figures from the DoH, according to Dr. Tayag, represent a low count among OFWs. “Total HIV/AIDS cases in the Philippines from 1984 to 2009 is 4,424. Of these cases, 1,348 or 30% are OFWs; 1,000 or 74% are males; 321 or 24% belong to the 30-34 age group; 1,083 or 80% are asymptomatic while 265 or 20% are full-blown AIDS cases.”
Sexual transmission, Dr. Tayag said, accounts for 95% of the transmissions; Of these, 929 or 72% are heterosexual; 225 or 18% homosexual; and 18% bisexual.
In 2009, OFWs accounted for only 20% of the total reported cases, he disclosed.
“The major intervention is focused on pre-employment and pre-departure HIV awareness and counseling,” he said.
HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a virus that attacks the immune system of the human body, the defense mechanism involved in fighting infection, thereby leading to AIDS or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, or a total breakdown of the immune system.
Cure for AIDS has yet to be discovered.