By: Emme Rose Santiagudo
HEALTH officials were alarmed by the increasing number of teenagers infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the region.
Data from the Department of Health-Center for Health Development (DOH-CHD)-6 on the cumulative HIV cases from 1986 until April 2019 indicated that 930 teenagers (15 to 24 years old) in the region are infected with HIV.
While the population of 25-34-year old bracket still accounted the highest number of HIV cases at 1,688, cases involving teenagers is very alarming, according to DOH-CHD 6 HIV/AIDS Program Coordinator Adrian Hort Ramos.
Despite the lack of data so far, Ramos also expressed his alarm over the increasing number of STIs in the region.
“Wala pa sang data regarding sa STI kay naga-focus kita sa prevention and control, pero madamo ang may kaso sang STI diri sa aton sa Western Visayas,” he said.
Ramos said STIs are also highly prevalent among teenagers. He explained that technically, HIV is a form of STI or sexually transmitted disease (STD).
“STDs or STIs are infection caused by unprotected or unsafe sex. Other STIs include gonorrhea and syphilis,” he said.
Once a person has STI, he/she has a higher risk of getting infected by HIV, he added.
“It doesn’t mean nga may STI ka may HIV ka na dayon but kon may STI ka possibly pwede man magka-HIV. Amo na usually pag ang isa ka tawo may STI, highly recommended magpa-test man siya sang HIV,” he said.
In Iloilo City, the Crisis Intervention Unit (CIU) of the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) reported that 90 percent of the children and girls that were referred by their office to the testing center of Family Planning and Organization of the Philippines (FPOP)- Iloilo Chapter tested positive to STI.
Most of these cases were fortunately treated, according to Rara Ganzon, focal person of CSWDO.
FPOP Iloilo Chapter Program Manager Mona Liza Diones said that cases of teenagers and children infected with HIV can also be attributed to the fact that children are now exposed to sexual activities even at a very young age.
“At the age of 10, gaengage na sila sa sex, advance na kita sa technology kay kon indi na nila na capture or na-observe sa iban, na-capture nila sa technologies.”
Ramos also shared the same sentiments citing technological platforms such as social media, internet, and other mobile applications plus behavioral change that contribute to young children being exposed to sexual activities.
“Ang akon makita, ang influence sang social media like mga applications nga hapos lang nila masearch and transact, ma-download, kag maka-log in sa maskin ano na website,” he said.
For this reason, both Diones and Ramos underscored the need to properly educate the children to prevent the spread of STIs and HIV.
“We need regulations or advance education sa ila that is why we are pushing comprehensive sexual education, why not because dapat at lower age, ma-educate sila sa mga preventive measures,” Diones stressed.
Ramos also emphasized the role of parents and encouraged them to introduce a very open environment to their children.
“Sa mga ginikanan, indi gid naton pagpabay-an ang aton kabataan, we need to introduce a very open environment kon sa diin indi na mangin taboo or awkward sa isa ka nanay or tatay nga istoryahan sexual responsibility sang ila kabataan,” he stressed.
Ramos also reminded the teenagers to discipline themselves and seek the right help specifically to the social hygiene clinics and health centers.
“Mas mayo gid panumdumon sang mga young and high school students nga naga-engage sina, ang ini nga buluhaton, indi siya hampang hampang lang, pwede ka dira makakuha sang sakit, and there will be consequences. Ini gid sila dayon magself check-up kag kadto sa pinakamalapit nga social hygiene clinic or health center, para matagaan sang bulong,” he stressed.
Globally, STIs have been infecting more than one million individuals aged 15 to 49 everyday, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Data from the WHO also revealed that more than 376 million new cases of STIs such as gonorrhea, syphilis, trichomoniasis, and chlamydia are recorded yearly.
Due to the increasing STI cases, Ramos said that they are also set to conduct a strategic planning to counter the cases.