(PN file photo)

HIV cases for Puerto Princesa City have steadily increased since 2019, with the highest number of patients being young men of ages 15 and above.

The City Health Office (CHO) recommended more stringent operations when it comes to HIV-AIDS awareness, emphasizing sexual education as a way of combating the alarming statistic.

In a media conference this April 16, Dr. Ralph Flores from the CHO reported that Puerto Princesa City logged more than 500 HIV-positive cases since 2019, with 174 cases logged in 2023 alone.

Flores however said that the estimate from the regional office was around 800-900 cases in Puerto Princesa alone, the total of which included those who, due to social stigma or lack of resources, were not officially diagnosed by a health center.

Flores expressed concern that the biggest demographic affected with AIDS in Puerto Princesa was the young population, specifically boys of 15 years of age and above, and mostly around the 15-24 age range.

“Alarming siya. Isa siya sa inaaral namin ngayon (…) Napansin natin na practice ng kabataan ngayon, ang ginagawa kasi lahat ay internet na. Dati minsan kapag kabataan ka, yung exploratory, yung pag nag-e-eksperimento ka, kausap mo yung kabarkada mo.  gayon wala na talaga kahit yung mga barkada di na nila kinakausap regarding this. Karamihan sa kanila nagbe-base sa internet para sa impormasyon nila,” Flores added.

He noted that while the CHO has its own local AIDS council which acts as the policy-making body on how to approach HIV-AIDS cases in the city, most of the actual groundwork comes from NGOs.

Flores stated that the barangay-level efforts of Roots of Health, Amos Tara, and the Tandikan Foundation made it easier for those with HIV to get tested or to approach health centers, since the lack of knowledge that comes with the social stigma of HIV was detrimental to local health efforts.

When asked if they would have any updated programs which could tackle handling the cases of a young demographic, Flores said that the CHO wanted to focus on a comprehensive sexual education class.

“Pinupush namin na sana ang ating mga sex education classes ay talagang mas matindi pa. Nagko-conduct kami ng focus group discussions sa ating mga kabataan, ang sinasabi nila ay di sila satisfied sa mga nagtuturo sa kanila kasi karamihan ay mababaw lang. Yung iba, mas marami pa silang natututunan sa internet kesa sa kanilang mga teacher,” he said.

Flores remarked that sexual education in itself was difficult to push through as a policy due to social expectations. However, he remarked that less guidance would be more detrimental to the younger generation’s sexual health.

“Ang tingin nila ay pag mas tinuturo natin, mas maggiging mapusok yung kabataan which is not the case, kasi kahit hindi natin sila turuan, nandiyan na yung internet, nandiyan na po yung information at the tip of their fingertips. Kahit di namin sila natuturuan, sila mismo meron na silang kakayanan sa kanila mismo na maghanap sa kanilang sarili,” Flores said.

“Yun talaga dapat yung binibigyan natin ng pansin (…) kasi sa information nila hindi nila alam kung saan yung tama at mali. Walang nagsasabi sa kanila na hindi yun tama or di pa nila alam ang consequences nun, not until they are tested or positive.”