Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Philippine Arm Forces's message on AIDS Candlelight

Message of the Arm Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Surgeon General on the occasion of the Awarding Ceremony for its AIDS Poster Making Contest. The contest is the AFP’s activity around the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial.

Awarding Ceremony, AIDS Poster-Making Contest
19 May 2008, AFP Medical Center

The Surgeon General, Armed Forces of the Philippines


The AIDS pandemic’s destabilizing effects have been keenly felt in developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, HIV and AIDS in Africa has “undermined education and health systems, economic growth, micro enterprises, policing and military capabilities, political legitimacy, family structures, and overall social cohesion.” Indeed, HIV infection rates among African Armed Forces are two to three times higher than those of the civilian populace. These destabilizing/threatening effects potentially extend beyond the African sub-continent as well. In the so-called “second wave” states – including China, India and Russia – infection among high-risk groups is beginning to spread into the general population.

In the light of its impact upon virtually all indicators of human well-being, from public health to national security – the global AIDS pandemic presents a quintessential human rights challenge affecting the vital interests of all nations and requiring a comprehensive, human rights-based approach if it is to be brought under control. One of the aims, then, is to reduce AIDS-related stigma and discrimination so that more people will get tested from HIV and receive prevention counseling. Respecting and enforcing rights of women so that they may control their bodies, reject unwanted sexual advances, and insist upon the correct and consistent use of condoms to protect oneself against HIV infection, ending modern-day slavery and eradicating human sex trafficking are also some of the national security issues that need to be addressed. More than mere “issues”, in fact, these challenges are fast becoming national security imperatives. Therefore, controlling HIV requires our collective global commitment – governmental, societal and personal -- to secure the human rights of all people.

In our organization, extensive education awareness was the initial step done to take the lead in preventing the spread of HIV. The Office of the Surgeon General, in partnership with Lunduyan Foundation, Inc. and the UNAIDS, conducted training of trainors among health personnel last October 15-19, 2007, which consisted of medical officers, military nurses, dental officers, veterinary officers, social workers, psychologists and medical technologists that will form the major services HIV and AIDS Core Team. The AFP Medical Center has a HIV and AIDS Core Team with its team leader CPT ADONIS F RASALAN. The second batch of the trained trainers were among medical and non-medical personnel who consisted of representatives from the Training and Doctrine Command of the Philippine Army (TRADOC), Air Force Education and Training Center (AETC), Naval Education and Training Center (NETC), Philippine Fleet, Marine Corps Training Center (MCTC) with the aim of incorporating the module on STI, HIV and AIDS 101 in the curriculum of the local schoolings and trainings that they have. The last batch was conducted among personnel in the PHILIPPINE MILITARY ACADEMY.

At present, the HIV and AIDS Policy is undergoing deliberation in the Office of the Adjutant General. The HIV and AIDS Core Team is presently working on a handbook on HIV 101. This poster making contest is also one of the action plans taken during the training of trainers conducted last year. There are 35 posters submitted coming from the different military units and an entry from Luuk, Sulu.

As you are gathered here today for the Awarding of the HIV and AIDS Poster Making Contest, it will be a challenge for all of us, especially in the Medical Service, to strengthen the education awareness and for us to take the lead in sustaining the long-term and continuous upscale in rendering services to our troops especially in preventing themselves. It is not only our task to protect the Motherland from insurgents and from other national security threats, but also a fight for us to keep the well-being of the Armed Forces of the Philippines – a transformation in the behaviour change must start now.

The Office of the Surgeon General would like to thank its partners – Lunduyan Foundation, Inc. and UNAIDS for their support, the AFP Medical Center for generously assisting and accommodating this activity despite the command’s hectic schedule, for the judges in sharing their expertise and time, for the AFP HIV and AIDS Core Team, and the support staff who help make this activity possible. I congratulate the winners and those who participated in the Poster Making Contest. It is our way of showing that we, in the Armed Forces, are creative people too.

Lastly, the goal is to scale up our commitment in the advocacy of education and policy-making on STI/HIV and AIDS that will lead us towards our corporate social responsibility in a community-based level of advocacy.

Thank you and Mabuhay!

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