In 2011, Dr. Mely Lastimoso said there were only 28 recorded cases of persons infected with HIV-AIDS.
Today, as the city observes World AIDS Day, there are already 171 people infected with the life-threatening human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), four of them involving mother and child transmission.
“Our data shows four families and their children were infected,” Dr. Lastimoso said in a letter to Mayor Ronnel Rivera.
The city mayor, in turn, said, “We need to double our efforts in combating HIV-AIDS as well as increase awareness and understanding of the infection.”
HIV damages the immune system of a person afflicted by the virus and interferes with the body’s ability to fight organisms that cause even the most common illness such as colds and pneumonia.
Once infected, an HIV-positive person will carry the virus for the rest of his or her life.
If it cannot be slowed down, HIV could develop into a full blown acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), a deadly and incurable progression of the virus.
Dr. Lastimoso said most of the 171 HIV cases they are monitoring involve young professionals with age range between 21-26 years old.
She said they are alarmed over the rising number of people with HIV in the city.
Over the last few months, she said, they have been monitoring an average of one new HIV case a day.
Dr. Lastimoso said more city residents may be infected with the virus as their testing has been limited to those who volunteer to undergo the HIV tests.
“Surprisingly,” Lastimoso however said, “a handful of HIV infected cases in General Santos City involve professionals.”
This, she said, has shattered the traditional belief that HIV-AIDS only infects sex workers and homosexuals.
Lastimoso also confirmed that a well-known businessman who died several years ago was confirmed to have acquired the virus.
She declined to identify the victim.
HIV is primarily transmitted through sexual contact with an infected person and exchange of body fluids.
It can likewise be spread by contact with infected blood through transfusion or sharing of intravenous needles from infected person.
It cans also be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or breast-feeding.
It can take years before HIV totally weakens the immune system and develop into AIDS.