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The city government through its Social Hygiene Clinic, will offer free human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) tests to mark World AIDS Day on December 1.

Free HIV tests would start at 10 a.m. at the SM City Northpoint, but would stop to give way to the 1:30 p.m. commemoration program, also in the same venue, and would resume at about 4:30 p.m., the clinic’s Medical Officer IV, Dr. Ma. Odeta B. Villareal, said Monday.

Villareal said results would be made available 40 minutes after the test.

World AIDS Day has been observed every Dec. 1 since 1988 to raise awareness and control the spread of HIV infection, as well as to mourn those who have died of the disease.

Data from the Department of Health’s (DOH) Epidemiological Bureau in Manila showed that this year, two persons in Western Visayas are diagnosed as HIV positive every 24 hours.

Richard Chin Jr., HIV and sexually transmitted infection (STI) surveillance assistant of the DOH Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unit (RESU), said that from January to June this year, Western Visayas has recorded 312 HIV cases with 16 deaths.

The highest diagnosis was in June with 65 testing HIV positive. Majority of the cases were caused by unprotected sex and male having sex with male (MSM).

Of the figure, 61 cases were asymptomatic or did not show any symptom at all.

Only one female was among the newly-identified cases while the rest were male.

Most of the new cases belonged to the 15 years to 24 years, and 25 years to 34 years age brackets.

This year, three HIV cases involved mother-to-child transmission.

Since the first HIV case was discovered in 1986, the region has had a total of 1,904 cases with 194 deaths.

Chin said that free HIV/AIDS tests are also available at the Western Visayas Medical Center (WVMC), Family Planning Organization of the Philippines (FPOP), and all district health centers in Iloilo City.

He also discouraged blood donation as a means to confirm whether or not they are positive of the virus.

While positive cases can be detected during the screening being done by blood banks, not all centers notify those who test positive, he said.

Jenny Lyn A. Ruaya of the WVMC HIV and AIDS Core Team (HACT) said that prior to the test, the client is first subjected to counseling because “HIV testing is not like any routine ordinary testing”.

“There has to be counseling due to negative implication. During the counseling we always emphasize that the test is confidential,” she stated. (PNA)

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