Puerto Galera tourists cautioned vs unprotected sex

by Arnell Ozaeta, ABS-CBN News Southern Tagalog

Posted at Apr 25 2014 03:56 AM | Updated as of Apr 26 2014 12:31 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Vacationers and tourists going to Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro were advised not to engage in unprotected sex, as the town is one of the areas considered high risk for HIV (human immuno virus) or AIDS (acute immune deficiency syndrome) infection, the Department of Health (DOH) reported yesterday.

Eduardo Janairo, DOH director for Region-4B, said Puerto Galera is listed in the “Category C Area” where the risk of HIV/AIDS infection is higher.

“We have to stop the rising cases of HIV cases in the country by providing accurate information to the public,” Janairo said in a statement.

The health official reminded the public that HIV or AIDS could not be spread through air, mosquito bites, talking with or borrowing clothes from an HIV-infected person or shaking hands, embracing and sharing swimming pools.

“HIV, like most diseases, is preventable and the most effective way to do it is by abstaining from sex, having only one sex partner, using condoms, avoid sharing needles or syringes and educating oneself on the pros and cons of HIV,” Janairo said.

Data from DOH’s HIV and AIDS Registry showed there were 934 cases of HIV infection in the country from January to February this year. Of the number, 93 developed into AIDS while 16 died.

But since 1984 when the registry started, the DOH documented 17,450 HIV cases, including 1,599 AIDS and 950 deaths.

Sexual contact accounted for 16,247 of the cases, followed by 743 infections transmitted through needle sharing among drug users, 62 mother-to-child transmissions and 20 through blood transfusion and needle prick injury.

Janairo said the HIV virus exists in almost all body tissues, but it usually concentrates in blood, semen and vaginal fluids.

“HIV/AIDS still has no cure and health officials can only provide information, diagnosis and treat suspected patients. The best way is through safe practice of informed individuals,” he said.

‘TxtHIV to 8504’ campaign

Globe Telecom powers “TxtHIV to 8504” campaign, a first of its kind SMS-based information, counseling and clinic referral drive in Asia for people who want to be tested for HIV but are afraid of social discrimination.

Fernando Esguerra, officer-in-charge for Globe’s corporate social responsibility, said “TxtHIV to 8504” is the company’s way of tapping the use of SMS and harnessing the power of telecommunications to further solutions in health care, said.

“It offers an accessible and easy-to-use solution which can change and even save lives. Our assistance to this campaign is part of Globe’s advocacy to provide communities that it serves with access to social services,” Esguerra said.

Currently available only to Globe postpaid and prepaid mobile users, those at risk may simply text HIV to 8504 and answer five yes or no questions through an interactive voice recording (IVR) to check if testing is necessary.

The sender is provided with contact details and addresses of the nearest specialized accredited health centers where he can go for assessment, counseling, and treatment.

The use of IVR ensures all calls remain confidential. Oscar Picazo, chairman of Philippine NGO Support Program (PHANSuP), thanked all their partners for their support and involvement in this effort. – with a report from Sheila Crisostomo, The Philippine Star