Deputy Minority Leader Rep. Aniceto Bertiz III said that some 88 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) were newly diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in February this year. This is 22 percent higher than the 72 HIV-positive in the same month in 2018.
Bertiz stressed that OFWs account for 10 percent of the 64,291 HIV cases listed in the National HIV?AIDS Registry as of February.
Information about the OFWs who are HIV-positive reveals that they worked abroad within the past five years, either on land or at sea.
The registry shows that of the 6,433 OFWs, 86 percent, or 5,553, were male with the median age of 32 years. The 880 female OFWs in the registry had a median age of 34 years.
Seventy percent of the male OFW cases were found infected via sexual contact through men who have sex with men (MSM) giving a breakdown of 2,328 from male-to-male sex and 1,674 from sex with both males and females.
HIV eventually leads to AIDS, or the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, which destroys the human body’s natural ability to fight off all kinds of infections. There is no cure yet for this kind of complication but antiretroviral therapy has been known to slow down the virus.
The new AIDS Prevention and Control Law that took effect this year is expected to deliver a “highly improved support” to the increasing number of OFWs living with HIV.
Section 37 of the new law obligates the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, together with other agencies, to develop a program to provide stigma-free comprehensive reintegration, care and support for OFWs with HIV, Bertiz said.
“Under the law, the economic, social and medical support is to be extended to all OFWs, regardless of employment status and stage in the migration process,” Bertiz said.
Bertiz also added that Section 17 of the law also requires all overseas-bound Filipino workers as well as Philippine government staff for foreign posting to undergo a seminar on the causes, manner of prevention, and impact of HIV and AIDS, prior to certification for deployment or assignment.
“The preventive education seminar is to be provided for free and at no cost to OFWs or to the staff concerned,” Bertiz said.
Source: Journal Online