The Pangasinan Provincial Health Office (PHO) reported some 97 confirmed cases of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections for the first half of the year.

However, Kenneth Dacion, HIV-AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) program coordinator of PHO clarified that “The victims may be here in the province or may not be here because we no longer do the contact tracing based on Republic Act 11166 to guarantee confidentiality of those who have themselves tested.”

He added that in their January to June records, “It is possible that some of them are outside the province but they may have placed Pangasinan as their residence.”

The program coordinator stressed that the provincial government has sustained awareness on HIV through regular information campaigns (HIV Awareness Talk) in different local government units (LGUs) and schools by activating the mandated Local AIDS Council.

As 80 percent of the confirmed cases are between 15 to 35 years of age, Dacion pointed out that awareness campaigns are conducted in schools since the “youth and young professionals are high-risk population.”

In addition, he said that they also conduct sessions in social hygiene clinics and treatment facilities to reach out more to the HIV victims.

Dacion also bared that the law has now lowered the age from 18 to 15 of those sexually active be tested without parental consent.

He pointed out that those who want to be tested can go to public hospitals and clinics for free and it will be confidential. (Jojo Mangahis)