Opinyon

We Take a Stand

A Global Epidemic Called HIV

4 min read

By Luchie Aclan Arguelles | Published: November 22, 2020

 

Remember Dolzura Cortes and Sara Jane Salazar

In times when HIV-AIDS stricken persons were ostracized and shunned, Dolzura bravely came out, admitted she had full-blown acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, and made a tell-all narrative.

Dolzura was the first with a name, a face and a voice.

Health records showed that the very first positive case of human immunodeficiency virus in the country was diagnosed in 1984. The name was never made public and,  like COVID-19, they were just number-coded.

For years, Dolzura harbored HIV which she suspected was contracted from her foreigner partner. It was already full-blown AIDS when fainted in the middle of a dance in a nightclub.

 

The Stigma

Already in a terminal phase and confined in a Manila hospital, Dolzura was prodded by an ex-lover to come out and tell her story.

Bravely, she related to media how she, as a sex worker, got the virus. She also shared her life, loves and life’s struggles.

In 1992, or months after this disclosure, Dolzura died of complications. She was just 30 years old.

Star for all seasons, Vilma Santos, now a Batangas congresswoman, played her part in the Dolzura movie “Dahil Mahal Kita”.

This film was used as a potent tool for AIDS information dissemination, its myths and reality.

It actually lessened the stigma AIDS bore.

 

Second To Come Out

Soon after, Sara Jane, just 19 in 1994, admitted in public that she had HIV. She was a sex worker and, like Dolzura, had strong suspicion that she acquired the virus from her foreigner-boyfriend.

She was the second to come out in the open.

That same year, Gelli de Belen played her part in the flick, “The Secrets of Sara Jane”, that won Gelli a Best Actress plum.

Sara Jane, whose real name was Marissa Reynon, turned AIDS advocate and educator to encourage others that there was help available for them.

 

Careless, Depressed

Sara Jane’s life was not without controversy.

Even when she was very aware that her condition was highly contagious and was slowly turning into full-blown AIDS, at 21, she took on a 16-year old lover, Ritchie Atizado, who she later had a son with.

Sara Jane was slapped with a child abuse case and for carelessly and consciously transmitting the virus to Ritchie.

Because of severe depression, perhaps due to medication and the problems she brought to herself, Sara Jane was confined at the National Center for Mental Health. She died of complications at age 25.

 

A Global Epidemic

More than the COVID-19 pandemic that is predicted to stay around for about 24 more months, HIV-AIDS had been persistent since 1981.

Medical history says this sexually-acquired virus has been around since the 1920s, believed to have originated from chimpanzees Congo in Central Africa.

Some studies considered HIV-AIDS a pandemic. The World Health Organization uses the term “global epidemic” as, indeed, it is worldwide and persisting.

 

39% In NCR

Latest figures show there are more than 77,000 people living with HIV (PLHIV) in the Philippines and the highest — 39 percent — are in the National Capital Region.

Before this decade, the 29-to-36 age bracket, mostly homosexuals, were diagnosed to have the virus and 94 percent of the total are male. Found to have the virus are from 1 month to 82 years old.

 

Dating Apps

As of March this year, in the NCR alone, recent cases show more and more contracting the virus were within the 15-to-24 age bracket. In the first quarter of this year alone, 2, 818 were confirmed to have HIV.

United Nations AIDS studies show “HIV is spreading faster in the Philippines than anywhere else in the world”.

In Southeast Asia, studies reveal those who contracted the virus got it from one-time “eyeball” between homosexuals, connected by dating apps.

In the 80s and early 90s, sharing needles in injecting drugs was the top means of HIV transmission. Of late, victims themselves admit same-sex intimacy was how they got the virus.

 

COVID and HIV-AIDS

COVID-19 is an unseen enemy and sources could be asymptomatic. Conscious or deliberate transmission is highly unlikely.

But a PLHIV has all the manifestations at a transmissible level and, therefore, the person is aware he/she is a carrier.

Because of the magnitude of transmission and casualties of COVID-19 that overwhelmed the world, vaccines were aggressively worked on.

Soon or in just a matter of months, the world would be ready with mass vaccination to prevent contraction of the coronavirus.

 

No HIV-AIDS Vaccine Yet

When the fear of HIV heightened in 1984, there were high hopes that a vaccine would be created and formulated if only to prevent infection and treat those who already have the virus.

As of June this year, or 36 years after the first try at clinical testing, leading laboratories remain in the stage “approaching HIV vaccine development”.

Anyone — of any color, conviction or status in life — could contract the coronavirus, no matter how careful one gets.

As for HIV-AIDS, getting exposed to it is really up to those with indiscriminate and prolific sexual practice.

As vaccine is remote, staying healthy and clean living is the only panacea.

Be informed and vigilant. December 1 is World AIDS Day.

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