MANILA, March 13 (Xinhua) -- More and more overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), a lawmaker said on Wednesday.
Citing data from the Department of Health (DOH), Lawmaker Aniceto Bertiz of the House of Representatives said a total of 90 OFWs were newly diagnosed as HIV-positive in January 2019, up 33 percent from 68 recorded in January 2018.
In January 2019, cases brought to 6,345, the cumulative number of OFWs found living with HIV since the government began passive surveillance of the virus in 1984, Bertiz said.
OFWs now comprise 10 percent of the 63,278 confirmed cases listed in the National HIV/AIDS Registry as of January this year, he added.
Of the 6,345 OFWs in the registry, DOH data showed that 86 percent, or 5,471, were male with the median age of 32 years. The 874 female OFWs in the registry had a median age of 34 years.
HIV causes the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), which destroys the human body's natural ability to fight off all kinds of infections. Though the condition still does not have any known cure, antiretroviral therapy has been known to slow down the virus.
Bertiz said he is counting on the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) 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 on Jan. 25.
The new law compels the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), 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," Bertiz said.
He said the law also requires all overseas-bound Filipino workers as well as Philippine government staff taking overseas posting to attend a free seminar on the causes, the manner of prevention and impact of HIV and AIDS, prior to certification for deployment or assignment.