11-30-2010, 08:54 PM
Join Date: Apr 2008
1,501 OFWs are HIV positive
A total of 1,501 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have tested positive for HIV, a labor group said Monday.
The OFWs with HIV now account for 26% of the 5,729 reported cases in the National AIDS Registry as of end-October, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) said.
"One out of every 4 Filipinos diagnosed HIV positive is an OFW," according to TUCP secretary-general and former Senator Ernesto Herrera.
"This is very unfortunate, because if we look closely at the median age of HIV-positive OFWs, at 36 years old, they are the prime of their lives and productivity," he added.
He said 96% of the HIV-positive OFWs were infected through sexual contact.
"This underscores the need for government to aggressively encourage safe sex through the use of male and female condoms," the former senator said.
"OFWs are particularly vulnerable to HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases because they are exposed to foreign cultures that tend to abet high-risk behavior, including casual sex," he added.
Herrera said Filipino sailors are exceptionally susceptible, after spending lengthy periods at sea. "Sailors are often deluged by commercial sex workers at their foreign ports of call, and they have the money to pay for the services," he revealed.
TUCP's member federations include the Philippine Seafarers' Union.
Of the HIV-positive OFWs, Herrera said 75 percent or 1,127 are male.
Herrera urged the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration to include AIDS preventive education in the free seminars for departing workers.
He likewise prodded the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to invest in activities that raise AIDS awareness among OFWs and their families here.
Herrera also urged Congress to mandate the inclusion of AIDS preventive education in all bargaining contracts between management and union.
TUCP said it is supporting President Benigno Aquino III's pro-choice family planning policy, calling it "a courageous demonstration of political leadership," amid strong resistance from Catholic Church officials.
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