DOH V urges public for HIV screening amid rising HIV cases 

The Department of Health Bicol Center for Health Development (DOH Bicol CHD) encourages the public, especially the youth, to get tested for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) following the increase of HIV cases in Bicol through a live stream of “Let’s Talk About Sex: A Symposium on Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health,” held at the Sorsogon Convention Center on May 28.

In his opening remarks, DOH V Regional Director Dr. Rodolfo M. Albornoz noted a 26 percent increase in HIV cases among 15- to 24-year-olds from 1984 to 2023. 

The event, spearheaded by the DOH Bicol CHD in partnership with Sorsogon’s Provincial Health Office (SPHO), Gentlemen Bicol for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Inc., and Sustained Health Initiatives Philippines, joined calls for HIV awareness and prevention through informed discussions about HIV and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).

Dr. Jazel Sabdao Calleja, the rural health physician-in-charge of Sorsogon City Health Office (SCHO), emphasized the need for accurate information about the country’s programs for people living with HIV during a live special episode of DOH Bicol CHD’s “BHW Me: Be Healthy With Me.”

“Kung sa programa, isa ito [na] pagbibigay natin ng tamang impormasyon sa ating kababayan. Kasi kapag may tama tayong impormasyon, mayroon din tayong tamang aksyon na ginagawa, para makaiwas tayo sa sakit na ito,” she said.

The availability of free HIV testing centers throughout Bicol was also highlighted. These centers offer screening, referral, counseling, and treatment for free. 

With the existing stigma and fears among people who prefer a confidential screening for HIV, Dr. Richard Hayagan of Gentlemen Bicol for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Inc. mentioned additional free testing centers, such as the social hygiene clinics found throughout the region. People willing to get tested will have options as to which testing centers are suitable for their privacy.

“Yung nagiging stigma sa community natin, ayaw magpa-test kasi iniisip nila,’may kakilala akong nurse, kilala ko ‘yong mga tao diyan ayoko magpatest.’ So, nagkakaroon ng barriers doon sa mga taong gustong magpa-test. Let me remind everyone na mayroon tayong mga choices pa na pwede tayong puntahan. Kung hindi tayo komportable, pwede tayong pumunta pa sa ibang testing center or sa mga community-based organization na pwede nating lapitan para magpatest,” Dr. Hayagan said. 

Furthermore, self-testing kits are available for those who prefer to test privately. The doctors assured full confidentiality and hands-on intervention regarding the results. 

“Know your status. Huwag matakot kasi unang-una libre ito, confidential ito. Just in case kung anuman ang maging resulta ng iyong HIV test, huwag paring matakot kasi mayroon tayong gagawin para pahabain natin ang ating buhay. So, get tested,” Dr. Hayagan stated.

Dr. Calleja, on the other hand, gave her advice to the youth, emphasizing safe sex. 

“Sa mga kabataan, huwag nating ipagpalit ang ating pangarap sa panandaliang sarap na hindi protected,” she said. I Denisse Mae Laganzo