FREE SCREENING. Baguio City’s Primary HIV care clinic treatment hub under the Health Services Office holds free screening and assessment at the ‘Night Market’ from May 19 to 20, 2002. Assistant city health officer Celia Flor Brillantes said a total of 112 HIV cases have been recorded from July 2017 to April 30, 2022. (PNA photo screenshot of the announcement)

BAGUIO CITY – To reach even more people, the Baguio Health Services Office (HSO) has begun another round of free human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing at the widely visited “night market” near the Burnham Park.

The two-day free testing, launched in celebration of the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial 2022, started on May 19 and will end on May 20, from 9 p.m. to midnight.

“We have to extend hours of service to reach out to many. A majority [of them], especially MSMs (males having sex with males), are at work during the day,” assistant city health officer Celiaflor Brillantes told the Philippine News Agency.

During the Baguio Flower Festival’s week-long Session Road in Bloom in February, the HSO also set up a booth for HIV testing where 13 of the 724 who availed of the service were found HIV reactive.

HSO data showed that the city has 112 HIV active cases from July 2017 to April 30, 2022.

Brillantes said a person found reactive with the virus undergoes screening, second testing, then a confirmatory test.

Aside from the 13 found reactive during the Panagbenga, two were also discovered from the 47 screened during the New Media Services activity; two reactive from the 98 tested during the Sunday Session Road market on February 13; and one case out of the 59 tested on May 15.

The data also showed that of the 112 cases, two have died and 14 have transferred residence and are undergoing treatment in another area. A total of 96 undergoing antiretroviral treatment (ART) with the help of the city’s Primary HIV care clinic treatment hub.

Brillantes said the HIV cases were discovered as a result of people’s fear of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) that prevented them from going for testing and assessment.

“Actually, baka naipon (the cases accumulated) during the pandemic. They [probably] did not want to be tested during that time,” she said.

She said they opted to do “public” assessment in areas where people converge to make testing services more visible and to encourage persons to have themselves tested if they see the testing booths.

Brillantes urged any person who wants to avail of the free service to proceed to the site for assessment.

“HIV testing or HIV assessment is for everybody’s protection… for the partner, for the person and even their families, especially for women who are pregnant or will get pregnant,” she said.

Brillantes urged the public to remove the stigma surrounding HIV-positive patients because the disease could be transmitted not only through sexual means but also through other modes.

A person who has HIV can continue to live a normal life through maintenance medications and precautions that can be used to prevent further transmission, the health official said. (PNA)