Manila: About 166 overseas Filipino workers were found to have human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), from January to July this year, raising to 1,688 the total number of people with HIV in the Philippines, according to a TV report.

About 85 per cent or 141 of them were male while 15 per cent or 25 were female, said Congressman Arnel Ty, adding that the number of OFWs with HIV this year was 73 per cent higher than the 96 OFWs with HIV for the same period last year.

Of the 1,688 Filipinos with HIV, 23 percent of them are OFWs, said Ty.

"OFWs are exceptionally at risk of acquiring HIV. Once they are exposed to foreign cultures, they tend to be more sexually active and put their guard down," said Ty, adding, "Commercial sex is more readily available abroad. Prostitution is legalised in some countries that host our OFWs."


Many HIV positive OFWs could infect their spouses, said other sources, adding that the Philippine government has no way of finding out the real number of Filipinos with HIV since there is no law allowing mandatory HIV tests on Filipinos.

Tests are being done on sex workers because of a law that was passed by former dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the 70s. Tests on OFWs are being done as required by countries that host OFWs.

In a resolution passed at the House of Representatives, Ty to push for a review of the country's AIDS Prevention and Control Law and the allotment of a bigger budget for the government's AIDS prevention and welfare programmes.

If the government does not do anything to stop the spread of HIV and AIDs, some 45,000 Filipinos would be infected by the dreaded disease in 2016, said Health Department Assistant Enrique Tayag.

There are an estimated nine million OFWs or 10 per cent of the country's population.