FREE TESTING. The Department of Health in the Cordillera Administrative Region (DOH-CAR) encourages individuals with “risky sexual behavior” to avail of the free Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) screening as Baguio City commemorates World AIDS Day on Dec. 2, 2022. The DOH is drumming up free screening for the virus following a spike in HIV cases in the country. (PNA photo by Liza T. Agoot)

BAGUIO CITY – The Department of Health in the Cordillera Administrative Region (DOH-CAR) on Friday encouraged the public, especially individuals with “risky sexual behavior” to avail of the free Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) screening following the increases of HIV cases in the region.

DOH-CAR regional director Dr. Rio Magpantay made the call during this city's commemoration of World AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) day.

The director said that they are drumming up free screening not to discriminate against any person, but as means of protection, especially with HIV cases ballooning to 883 as of September 30, 2022, in the whole Cordillera region.

“At least 61.4 percent or 544 of them have addresses in Baguio City,” he noted.

“The testing is free but it is voluntary. That is why we are encouraging the public, especially those with risky sexual behaviors or those who are at risk of getting infected to take the test immediately,” Magpantay said.

He defined risky sexual behavior as having multiple partners, going from one relationship to another, and drug use.

Magpantay also said data from the DOH shows that in 2022, at least 42 persons in the country are diagnosed daily to be HIV positive, which is an increase in the trend since 2012.

The doctor said that there are several testing centers that the public can go to, which treat the procedure and the client as highly confidential, with results also confidential and will be made known only to the person involved.

There are government facilities that also cater to clients for free.

In case a person is tested positive, there are treatment centers where care and medicines are provided to the person involved.

"We at the DOH assure the availability of medicines as part of our continuing commitment to persons living with AIDS," Magpantay said.

He added that HIV-AIDS is not the end of the world for any person.

"There are many persons living with AIDS who live a normal life because they are cared for and their conditions are properly managed," Magpantay said. (PNA)