DAVAO CITY, Philippines — A group here said Thursday that the fight of eliminating discrimination to people living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome remains high as cases in Davao region stand at 2,266 since 1984.

The Mindanao’s Advocate Association Inc. revealed that the city is still on a starter stage in terms of eliminating discrimination and stigma towards people diagnosed with HIV and AIDS.

In an interview with Davao Today, Gilson Po, 21 a fresh college graduate expressed his disappointment at people discriminating people with HIV/AIDS.

“The concept of having HIV/Aids is not yet normalized in the society. Though there is minimal tolerance coming from some people, I think it is not enough,” he said.

As an example, Po said people with HIV/Aids are always labeled as “sexually promiscuous” individuals that may cause difficulty in adjusting to their social cohesion and interaction.

“Society only highlights the not-so-popular reason of unprotected sex and the concept that once you have HIV you are unhealthy. I think this is so unfair and too prejudicial. These people need utmost care, respect, and sensitivity from us. These people need help,” he said.

During the observance of World AIDS Awareness Day held at Royal Mandaya Hotel on Dec. 1, Melvin Borres, president of MAAI admitted that they are conducting massive campaign on HIV and AIDS because the city is still in a long way in achieving the end of discrimination to those people who are diagnosed with HIV/Aids.

“We are in a massive campaign on HIV/AIDS because this is for now the only key to eliminate discrimination,” he said.

Jeffry Fuentes, head of City Health Office-Population Division agreed to Borres that the city now is still in the first stage of eliminating stigma and discrimination on HIV/AIDS.

“But we are trying our best to move forward on the middle stage from the first stage since we know stigma is still there and discrimination is still very high,” he said.

Fuentes added that aside from stigma and discrimination, the myths of HIV/AIDS are still present because of its relation to sex which makes it a factor to hinder the city to move forward.

“Sex is viewed for a longest time as something dirty, not good that is why I don’t think it will be easy for us to eliminate stigma and discrimination,” he said.

In an interview with Davao Today, Dr. Jordana Ramiterre, head of the Reproductive Health and Wellness Center said from January to October 2016 there are 475 cases of HIV/AIDS in Davao Region, citing data from the National Epidemiology Bureau.

Davao del Sur has the highest number of cases, at 1, 925 HIV/Aids cases.

The highest number of infected persons were at the age ranges of 15 to 24 and 25 to 29.

“They are the highest number of infected aged because these group are the reproductive biologically, physiologically, sexually active group,” she said.

As of now, Ramiterre said that they are still promoting prevention awareness on HIV/Aids where it can be addressed by the Information Education Campaign desk of RHWC.

She said that early diagnosis leads to early cure.

This year, Ramiterre said the RHWC targeted 80 percent of the population to undergo HIV test. Almost 60 percent already submitted themselves to testing, she said.

Ramiterre advised the public to take the free HIV screening and testing in the city can be access in Southern Philippines Medical Center, Davao Doctors Hospital and RHWC. (davaotoday.com)

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