The Department of Health (DoH) has urged pregnant women in the National Capital Region (NCR) and Cebu City to avail of the free human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing in local health centers.
In an interview, DoH-National HIV/STI Prevention Program manager Gerard Belimac said pregnant women may avail of the free HIV testing as part of their regular pre-natal check-up, just like syphilis and hepatitis testing.
“For pregnant women in NCR, Cebu City, HIV testing is being offered to every pregnant women for free,” said Belimac.
A pregnant, on the other hand, will not be forced to get tested. Free testing will only be voluntary as allowed by law, he noted.
“If she does not want to get tested, we won’t force her. But we are not closing doors to them because in their next pre-natal visit, we will still offer the free HIV testing,” he added.
The free HIV testing, Belimac noted, is initiated as they believe that pregnant women are also part of the most-at-risk population like the men-having-sex-with-men, injecting drug users, and those engaged in transactional sex.
“There is a high possibility of transmission from a male partner to a housewife. As long as the men’s behavior cannot be controlled, there is that possibility that the virus will be transferred to their female partners,” he explained.
At present, the free testing is being offered only in NCR and Cebu as it is only in the pilot test stage.
“These are the top regions with HIV incidents that is why we are focusing our intensified program there first,” Belimac said.
The program would be expanded depending on the future budget allocations, he said.
“Anyway, HIV testing will always be available in HIV testing facilities. And we will not discriminate who wants to undergo testing,” he further said.
Since 2011, the DoH recorded 214 pregnant women with HIV.
Those found positive of HIV, he said, shall be strongly encouraged to take the Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART), which has been declared safe for pregnant women. (Charina Clarisse L. Echaluce)