Health dept to step up drive on call centers

Published by reposted only Date posted on January 31, 2010

HEALTH authorities in Central Visayas said they would focus their efforts on curbing the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among call center employees in the region.

The agency gave this assurance in light of a UP Population Institute study that showed them at high risk of contracting AIDS.

Dr. Susana Madarieta, regional director of the Department of Health in Central Visayas (DOH-7), said while they were unable to attend last Friday’s presentation in Cebu City, they anticipated the increase in AIDS cases among young urban professionals.

“Maybe we can give more attention to this (call center) group. Our attention was on commercial sex workers, men having sex with men and overseas workers. Now with this finding, we would intensify our advocacy campaign,” Madarieta said.

But other groups like the Cebu Educational Development Foundation expressed skepticism over the report.

“We need to have a more factual basis for this report. Perhaps, it is a bit sensationalized based on a few anecdotal stories,” foundation director Bonifacio Belen said.

Still, Belen said reports on the rise of STD cases especially among call center agents is a wake up call.

“The rise of STD cases – if indeed true – is a function of deteriorating values in our country, which needs an appropriate values – oriented response,” he said.

Results of the UPPI study dubbed as “Lifestyle and Reproductive Health Issues of Young Profesionals in Metro Manila and Metro Cebu,” funded by the Population Commission were presented in Cebu City last Friday.

The study showed that almost half of call center agents in Manila and Cebu are classified as a high risk group for STDs due to risky sexual behaviors.

Respondents were men and women aged between 18 years old and 24 years old with educational attainment of at least second year College and working on shifts.

The total number of respondents interviewed for the study was 929 call center and 35 non call center firms in Metro Manila and Metro Cebu.

The interviews covered nine call center establishments in Metro Manila with 434 respondents, seven call center establishments in Metro Cebu with 241 respondents and 254 respondents from non-call center establishments in Manila.

The study covered the socio-economic and lifestyle profiles of the respondents, particularly call center employees.

It showed that fewer Metro Cebu call center employees—both male and female–engaged in high risk sexual behaviour than their Manila counterparts.

It also showed the higher incidence of drinking and fast food consumption among Manila call center employees, who earn more than their Cebu counterparts.

However, the same study showed that Cebu call center employees earn more than their non-call center counterparts in Metro Cebu.

Meanwhile, Madarieta said the reluctance of people to undergo HIV testing has given them problems in tracing AIDS cases.

“What we could do is encourage people to have themselves tested,” she said.

“We also said that this is just the tip of the iceberg, that this is not all those who have been infected with the virus. There are some who do not even know that they are HIV positive,” Marietta said.

She also said that the regional health office has medical treatment available.

“We have these retroviral drugs, but these cannot prevent HIV infection but to only slow down the disease,” the regional DOH-7 director said.

Madarietta said men and women who may have experienced one or some symptoms to have themselves checked.

“They can go to the social hygiene center at the Cebu City Health Office. They can also approach us (at the DOH) to ask for assistance,” she added. –Ma. Bernadette A. Parco, Cebu Daily News with a story from Reporter Aileen Garcia-Yap

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