June 17, 2024

The Department of Health is planning to increase the number of areas where condoms may  be accessed as protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the Cordillera.

Apart from government clinics and HIV infection treatment hubs, DOH-Cordillera is planning to include private establishments like night establishments, bars, gyms, and even restaurants where more people will be able to access condoms outside of the usual operating hours of institutions or establishments where this contraceptive is available.

DOH-Cordillera STI-AIDS Program Coordinator Darwin Babon said the agency wants to establish non-facility based access areas so that more people will be able to access condoms and protect themselves from STIs or even unplanned conception.

“The facilities usually operate from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. but condoms should be available at any given time,” Babon said, as he stressed that condoms and other measures to prevent the spread of HIV should be within reach due to the increasing number of cases.

From 1984 to December 2023, the region’s total HIV/AIDS cases reached 1,034 cases with 61 deaths.

An infectious diseases specialist of the Baguio General Hospital has also seen a growing trend in cases.

Data from the BGH alone showed that as of April there are 1,118 HIV cases diagnosed and 611 are undergoing antiretroviral treatment at the BGH treatment hub while the rest have either expired or transferred to another treatment hub.

BGH Medical Officer IV Bernard Demot said there have been many breakthroughs in HIV treatment but many still succumb to the infection because of the stigma associated with acquiring the virus.

“What worries us is there are those who seek consult when infection has already reached full-blown AIDS and their opportunistic infection has already reached the advanced stage,” Demot said.

Transmission via sexual contact remains the top cause of infection. Those who get infected are between one and 62 years old with a median age of 28.

Complimentary to the preventive measures should be to also increase the number of treatment hubs.

Babon reported that from the previous three that were based only in Baguio City, there are now treatment hubs in Benguet, Abra, Apayao, and Kalinga.

He said he hopes that before the year ends, Mountain Province and Ifugao will have their treatment hubs.

Services provided in HIV hubs are prevention education, treatment, care, and support services to people living with HIV like counseling and testing, clinical management, and patient monitoring. – Rimaliza A. Opiña