Thursday, February 11, 2010

ARMM doctors alarmed by unrecorded HIV-AIDS cases

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By Charlie Señase
Inquirer Mindanao
First Posted 06:38:00 02/10/2010

Filed Under: Health, Overseas Employment, Epidemic and Plague

COTABATO CITY, Philippines -- Authorities have warned the public about the growing incidence of HIV-AIDS after official health records showed that four Filipino women from the island provinces of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, who have held jobs overseas, have been afflicted with HIV-AIDS.

Dr. Tahir Sulaik, former ARMM health secretary, said an OFW health worker afflicted with the dreaded disease along with the three others reportedly got infected in their places of assignment abroad.

"We discovered them in 2009 and they are all women OFWs," said Sulaik, who has returned to his former post as Maguindanao health chief.

"The entry of HIV cases in the region is not the sole responsibility of the health department but should also be the concern of everybody within ARMM, knowing the health hazard that it poses to others," said Sulaik, who has been replaced by Dr. Kadil Sinolinding as regional health secretary during a recent Cabinet reorganization following the suspension of ARMM Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan, who has been linked to the Nov. 23 Maguindanao massacre.

Sinolinding said, "it is not remote though that we might have other unreported cases of HIV positives in the region."

The new ARMM health chief assured the public he would continue Sulaik's vigorous programs for a region-wide disease detection in order to prevent more infections.

"So far no HIV cases have been recorded this year, but we cannot discount the possibility that there could be more (unreported cases)," Sinolinding said.

He attributed the unrecorded HIV cases to shame, conservative culture, family sensitivity, and fear of those with HIV-AIDS of being ostracized by society.

Both Sulaik and Sinolinding encouraged patients to consult health experts or get treatment at the nearest health centers anywhere in the ARMM.

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