91 more OFWs bring home HIV

FOR the month of March this year, 91 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) were diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

The new number is 14 percent higher than the record of the same period last year.

ACTS-OFW party-list Rep. Aniceto Bertiz said this is alarming as cases of HIV is increasing every year.

The March cases brought to 6,524 the cumulative number of OFWs found living with HIV since the government began passive surveillance of the virus in 1984.

OFWs now comprise 10 percent of the 65,463 confirmed cases listed in the National HIV/AIDS Registry as of March.

“The OFWs in the registry worked abroad within the past five years, either on land or at sea, when they were diagnosed HIV-positive,” Bertiz said.

The bulk of the OFWs in the registry were from Metro Manila (2,110 cases, or 32 percent); the Calabarzon (1,139 cases, or 17 percent); and Central Luzon (761 cases, or 12 percent).

Of the 6,524 OFWs in the registry, 86 percent, or 5,635, were male with the median age of 32 years.

The 889 female OFWs in the registry had a median age of 34 years.

Of the male OFW cases, 72 percent were found infected via sexual contact among MSM, or men who have sex with men (2,372 from male-to-male sex and 1,699 from sex with both males and females).

Bertiz is counting on the Department of Labor and Employment to deliver “highly improved support” to the growing number of OFWs living with HIV, as mandated by the new AIDS Prevention and Control Law that took effect earlier this year.

“Section 37 of the new law obligates the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, together with other agencies, to develop a program to provide stigma-free comprehensive reintegration, care and support for OFWs with HIV,” Bertiz said.

Under the law, the economic, social and medical support is to be extended to all OFWs, regardless of employment status and stage in the migration process.