People may discriminate against people living with HIV (PLHIV), but the disease doesn’t. Whether you’re gay or straight, woman or man, young or old, you could get the infection. Some groups are at a higher risk, but that doesn’t mean others are safe altogether.
In January 2019, the Department of Health (DOH) recorded more than 1,200 new cases of HIV infections in the Philippines, bringing the total confirmed cases to over 63,000. Not all of these fresh cases involved sexual contact; there were mother-to-child transmissions, as well as sharing of infected needles.
A June 2019 report from the HIV, AIDS, & ART Registry of the Philippines, however, brings the total cases to 68,401, with 35 people newly diagnosed with HIV.
With the rising case of HIV, you’ll want to stay on top of your sexual health, especially if you’re sexually active. The first step is to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) — including diseases apart from HIV.
The Spotlight is on HIV
HIV is the most talked about STI in the country, but people are more likely to get other forms of STI. Speaking at the 15th Postgraduate Course, “HEADLINE: Dermatology,” Dr. Gilbert Yang reports that the most common sexually transmitted disease (STD) is gonorrhea, followed by genital warts, herpes, and syphilis.
The problem is, not many groups monitor the rise of STIs other than HIVs. Moreover, there are more advocate groups for HIV than other STIs altogether, which means there are fewer chances to educate people about non-HIV STIs.
To make matters worse, some STIs are “silent infections” — they don’t exhibit symptoms, making them difficult to diagnose and treat. Because they don’t know they’re carrying an STI, some people unintentionally spread the infection to the people they love.
Even HIV symptoms are easy to miss.
Fever, chills, rash, sore throat, fatigue, night sweats, and muscle aches are signs the body acquired the infection, but these can be easily dismissed as common flu.
There’s no other way to be sure than to get tested.
How to Get Tested
There’s not one test that covers all STIs, so you have to visit a physician to know how each disease will be screened. Some STIs require simple blood work, whereas others need a urine test.
HIV Test in the Philippines provides a comprehensive list of healthcare facilities and institutions that offer HIV testing. Some of these groups offer free testing; private hospitals charge anywhere between P1,100 and P1,300. When in Manila also compiled a list of clinics in NCR, Calabarzon, and Region 1 that offer free HIV testing.
Apart from HIV, Love Yourself Philippines also offers testing for some STIs and recommends other clinics where you can avail STI testing and treatment.
Some of these tests include:
- A blood test, where the physician or nurse takes blood from your arm or finger
- A cheek test, where a soft swab will be rubbed in the inside of your cheek
- A urine test, where you pee into a cup
- A physical exam, where the physician examines your genital area for rashes, sores, or warts
If you test positive, your doctor will discuss the appropriate treatment. Don’t worry, many of these diseases can be treated with medication. It’s just like other infections; you take your medicine, you get well, and you move on like nothing happened.
There are, however, incurable conditions. Viruses such as HIV remain in the body, but you have a myriad of ways to manage symptoms and prevent spreading the diseases to your partner. In fact, many PHLIV live long, normal lives — many have loving relationships, healthy children, and successful careers.
Then again, you never know if you really have the disease. There’s no point worrying about STIs unless you’re sure you have them. So don’t prolong the guessing game. Get tested today.
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