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Philhealth: Over 2,000 Pinoy workers abroad infected with HIV

October 10, 2012 3:00pm
The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (Philhealth) said over 2,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have been found positive for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

In a news release, Philhealth said the 25 new cases detected in August brought to 2,010 the number of OFWs with HIV, which kills or damages the body's immune system cells.

“We are reassuring HIV-positive members and dependents, including those working overseas, that we will help them through our Outpatient HIV/AIDS Treatment Package, which provides a substantial allowance for annual reimbursements under our case benefit payment scheme,” said Dr. Eduardo Banzon, Philhealth president and chief executive officer.

OFWs now comprise some 20 percent of the 10,514 cases in the Philippine HIV and AIDS Registry.

 According to the Philippine HIV and AIDS Registry, some 97 percent of HIV-positive OFWs, or 1,948 cases, acquired the virus as a result of sexual contact.
 
According to the health site Medline Plus AIDS or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is "the most advanced stage of infection with HIV."

The site said a blood test can tell if a person has HIV infection. 

The first signs of HIV infection "may be swollen glands and flu-like symptoms. These may come and go a month or two after infection. Severe symptoms may not appear until months or years later," it added.
 
While there is no cure, there are many medicines to fight both HIV infection and people can live with the disease for many years.

Around 78 percent of HIV-positive OFWs, or 1,561 cases, were males with the median age of 35 years.
 
When they were first diagnosed HIV-positive, some 85 percent of the affected OFWs (1,712 cases) did not show any symptoms, while 15 percent (298 cases) already had full-blown AIDS.
 
Up to 46,000 Filipinos could be diagnosed with HIV by 2015, unless the spread of the highly contagious disease is controlled, the Philippine National AIDS Council has warned.

Nine new HIV cases were spotted every day from January to August this year, up from only six cases daily over the same eight-month period in 2011, according to the Philippine HIV and AIDS Registry.
 
Undergo test

Banzon urged OFWs to have themselves tested if they suspect that they have HIV.
 
“We will respect every member’s absolute right to privacy and protect the confidentiality of their claims for treatment expenses incurred. In fact, all their claims are put in specially marked sealed envelopes,” Banzon said.
 
He said registered OFWs may file their claims via authorized representatives in the Philippines even if they are abroad.

Philhealth may reimburse them as long as they submit the required supporting papers, Banzon said.

“Philhealth’s protection for HIV-positive members is our way of giving more meaning to the right to health of every Filipino and complying with the mandate of the AIDS Prevention and Control Law,” Banzon said.
 
Section 22 of 1989 law states: “Hospital-based services – Persons with HIV/AIDS shall be afforded basic health services in all government hospitals, without prejudice to optimum medical care which may be provided by special AIDS wards and hospitals.” 
 
He said Philhealth members in the Philippines may seek therapy in any of the 16 hospitals identified by the Department of Health as special treatment hubs:
 
Luzon
  • Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center;
  • Ilocos Training and Regional Medical Center;
  • Cagayan Valley Medical Center;
  • Jose B. Lingad Medical Center;
  • San Lazaro Hospital;
  • Philippine General Hospital;
  • Research Institute for Tropical Medicine;
  • Makati Medical Center;
  • The Medical City, and
  • Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital.
 
Visayas
  • Western Visayas Medical Center;
  • Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital;
  • Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, and
  • Gov. Celestino Gallares Memorial Hospital.
 
Mindanao
  • Zamboanga City Medical Center, and
  • Southern Philippines Medical Center.
- VVP, GMA News