DOH offers HIV testing for pregnant women

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By: Julie M. Aurelio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
January 20, 2018

The Department of Health (DOH) is urging pregnant women in Metro Manila and Cebu City to avail themselves of free human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing at health centers in their communities.

Dr. Gerard Belimac, program manager of the DOH’s National HIV-STI Prevention Program, said pregnant women could be tested for HIV as part of their prenatal check-up.

He said an HIV test, voluntary under the law, is similar to testing for syphilis or hepatitis.

“We won’t force them. But we are not closing doors to them. In their next prenatal visit, we will still offer the free HIV testing,” Belimac said.

DOH records show that since 2011, a total of 214 pregnant women have tested positive for HIV.

Safe therapy

Those who tested positive for the virus are urged to take antiretroviral therapy (ART)—a set of medications to prevent the growth of the virus— that Belimac said was safe for pregnant women.

He explained that the chances of infecting a childwith HIV was 24 percent, but this could go down if the mother took the ART.

Pregnant women are among the most at-risk population for HIV, according to the World Health Organization.

Also at risk are men having sex with men, drug users who use syringes, and those engaged in “transactional sex.”

There is a high possibility of transmission from a male partner to a wife. As long as the man’s behavior cannot be controlled, there is that possibility that the virus will be transferred to the female partner,” Belimac said.

The DOH is offering free HIV testing for pregnant women initially in Metro Manila and Cebu City—two regions with high HIV incidence. It may also be offered in other regions soon, depending on the department’s budget allocations.

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