Manila, August 8, 2003 By Sheila Crisostomo (STAR) There are more Filipino overseas nurses infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), which causes Acute Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), because of medical accidents in hospitals than Filipino entertainers working in clubs and bars around the world.

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV-AIDS (UNAIDS) announced this new finding the other day when it released the Department of Health’s updated AIDS Registry, which ranks by profession overseas Filipino workers infected by the disease.

As of April this year, Filipino seafarers topped the list with 277 reported HIV cases, followed by domestic helpers with 103 infections. Nurses were ranked third with 30 cases, while entertainers accounted for 26 reported infections.

Arthur Jaucian, UNAIDS country adviser, said many seafarers and company workers got infected by the virus through commercial sex, while some domestic helpers either moonlighted as sex workers at night or got raped by their employers.

But in the case of nurses, he said, the infection was caused by medical accidents such as needle pricks or blood splashes on the face.

Jaucian cited the case of a Filipina nurse who got infected with HIV a few years ago while attending to a pregnant woman in the United States.

During delivery, the blood of the woman, who turned out to be HIV-positive, got splashed all over the nurse’s face.

"The virus in the blood apparently entered through her eyes and she got infected with the disease," Jaucian said. The nurse was eventually sent home to Iloilo where she later died.

Jaucian said the rise in HIV infection among Filipino nurses abroad has prompted UNAIDS to coordinate with the Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) to ensure that orientation seminars be given to those who are about to depart for other countries.

"They were not aware that more nurses are getting infected with HIV. UNAIDS also did not know about this until the DOH (released the new registry). The PNA said it would be publishing the registry in its monthly newsletter to keep nurses on their toes," Jaucian said.

He also advised that nurses should always observe universal precautionary measures against HIV-AIDS such as the wearing of goggles and gloves during surgeries and emergency trauma cases.

"As far as I know, nurses are being trained in these precautions. I just hope no more nurses will be infected by HIV-AIDS," he added.

The Philippines is one of the top sources of medical professionals in the US and Canada.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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