BAGUIO CITY -- The city government's social hygiene clinic continues to monitor the behavior of men having sex with men (MSM) and transgender (TG) women in the city as a way to curb the increasing incidence of acquired human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cases in the city.
Baguio's Health Services Office has tagged these sectors as HIV-vulnerable.
Dr. Celia Flor Brilliantes, chief of Baguio's social hygiene clinic, told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Tuesday the clinic has started implementing the HIV Integrated Behavioral Serologic Surveillance System (HIBSSS), targeting the MSM and TG women, or women having sex with men and women.
“The goal of the activity is to determine if there has been a change in the behavior of the sector,” said Brillantes, adding that this would be the basis for determining appropriate courses of action.
"There is a steady increase of HIV positive all over the country," she noted, saying 31 HIV infections are recorded daily nationwide.
Statistics showed that majority of the cases are men, mostly MSM. Their number is thrice the number of women with HIV.
“It’s a behavior that we really want to change with the use of condom and the reduction of partners, multiplicity of partners,” she said.
“Dont you know that now, we are the number one country in the whole world with HIV infection with a 179 percent increase?” she added.
The target of the surveillance is 300 MSMs until October, Brilliantes said, and it will be a sample population, which will be the basis for coming up with programs addressing the increasing cases among the sector.
“Friday last week was our first day," she addedd. "We had five venues to go here in Baguio. This time, the MSM community is very supportive that they should now be able to know their HIV status at least once or twice. But we encourage them that after three months, they repeat their HIV test and they are all very supportive. If before they complain by saying that the blood extraction is painful, now, only a few are saying it.”
According to Brilliantes, those found to be infected with HIV are not female sex workers, but young professionals.
MSMs, who were found positive, are mostly male sex workers, she said.
“We do surveillance and find out the places frequented by the MSM. We do blood extraction, which the sector also supports, to know their HIV status,” Brillantes said.
The HIV surveillance team is composed of interviewers, majority of whom are from the Department of Health.
The group also invited some people connected with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community.
"The goal, which is a national program of the government, is for MSM to have a change in behavior for them to really use condom, for them not to have HIV infection, and to reduce, if not stop, having multiple partners, and prevent acquiring the disease," Brilliantes said.
She said the health department had been doing the surveillance since 1996 because of the increasing number of HIV cases in the country.
Before, she said, it was done every year, then it was reduced to every two years. Since 2015, it has been done only every three years because change in behavior does not happen quickly.
Brilliantes said although HIV is still prevalent in Baguio, the incidence rate of recorded HIV infection in the city has recently gone down from one case a week to one case every two weeks. (PNA).