Mike Defensor

Defensor: 8,081 OFWs diagnosed with HIV

August 10, 2021 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 487 views

THE cumulative number of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) diagnosed human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive has surpassed the 8,000 mark, Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor said.

“The aggregate number of OFWs living with HIV has reached 8,081 with the addition of 83 newly confirmed cases in June,” Defensor said.

“There were 382 OFWs found HIV-positive from January to June this year, up 52 percent from the 250 cases reported in the same semester in 2020,” Defensor said.

Defensor said OFWs now account for 9.2 percent of the 88,108 total cases listed in the National HIV/AIDS Registry as of June.

The OFWs in the registry worked abroad within the past five years – either on land or at sea – when they were diagnosed HIV-positive, according to Defensor.

Defensor reminded the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) that it is duty-bound to provide adequate care and support for OFWs living with HIV.

“Under the AIDS Prevention and Control Law of 2018, the OWWA is expected to provide a stigma-free comprehensive reintegration program for OFWs living with HIV, including economic, social, and medical support for them, regardless of their employment status and stage in the migration process,” Defensor said.

Of the 8,081 OFWs in the registry, 87 percent, or 7,045 cases, were male with the median age of 32 years.

The 1,036 female OFWs in the registry had a median age of 34 years.

An overwhelming majority of the OFWs in the registry were found infected via sexual contact, mainly male-to-male sex.

From January to June this year, the 382 cases among OFWs comprised 6.3 percent of the 6,043 newly confirmed HIV cases in the country.

HIV causes the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), which destroys the human body’s natural ability to fight off all kinds of bacterial, viral, and fungal infections.

While HIV still does not have any known cure, sustained antiretroviral therapy (ART) can keep the virus suppressed, if diagnosed early, according to the Department of Health.

A total of 51,129 Filipinos living with HIV, including 11,778 cases with advanced infection, were undergoing ART as of June.

Meanwhile, another 308 Filipinos died of AIDS-related illness in the first semester, raising to 4,806 the cumulative deaths since 1984.