As many Filipinos prepare to celebrate the unfolding of the year with a bang, another boom is on the offing, that is, the rapid and alarming boom of HIV infections in the country—the Department of Health’s (DoH) Registry on HIV and AIDS shows the rise in the incidence whereas 395 new HIV documented cases from January to September of last year increased to 549 for the same time period this year.
However, Joshua Formentera, President and CEO of Positive Action Foundation Philippines, Inc. (PAFPI) shares that a series of intervention done last November 22, 27 and December 6 during the gay pride march yielded a result that is alarming and, as Formentera puts it, shocking.
The intervention was composed of doctors, nurses, people from the non-government organizations (NGOs) and private individuals who volunteered and set up a booth in places where people often go to party and have a good time. This time, the volunteers chose Malate in Manila for the free counseling and screening to party-goers who were mostly composed of men having sex with men or now called in a politically correct manner MSMs.
The HIV/AIDS incidence in the country continues to grow and is now being considered as a "slow epidemic" by experts who think that aggressive hunting for cases should be applied by the health department to arrest this situation.
Infectious disease expert of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine and Associate Professor Dr. Edcel Salvana said the government should adopt the "opt-out strategy" where there is no need for the consent of the person to undergo HIV testing.
But he emphasized that in applying this strategy, there is a great need to strengthen the capacity of health facilities to keep all information confidential to protect the identity of persons who undergo HIV testing especially those who are confirmed for HIV.
Fellow government workers, other guests, civic organizations and NGOs, other partners in the HIV/AIDS community …good morning to everyone.
Thank you very much and on behalf of the Department of Health and all the member agencies and nongovernment organizations of the Philippine National AIDS Council, let me welcome everyone to the 2009 National Dissemination Forum for HIV/AIDS in the Philippines. This morning we are presenting new data on HIV/AIDs to know more about our epidemic and its changing trends, so that together, we can mount a stronger and a more focused response that reflects the greater urgency with which we need to confront it.
Nothing in the current trends of new HIV/AIDS infections in the country suggests that we are facing a waning AIDS epidemic. In fact, we may be in for a ride. Although we now see unparalleled momentum in the responses against HIV/AIDS with the way we have consolidated a broader, multisectoral national response over the past decades, the number of people living with HIV continues to grow in the Philippines. We may have the financial, medical, and technical building blocks to curb the epidemic, but overall rates of HIV/AIDS are going up nationally based on the latest report which NEC will announce this morning,
HIV/AIDS is gaining momentum. It is spreading fast in the most at risk populations at a pace that we haven’t seen before and at a rate which can put unsustainable burden on our country for decades to come. It is emerging as one of our primary health and development concerns with the real and imminent danger that the AIDS epidemic can become explosive and spill over larger communities. We have seen that in many of our Asian neighbors, a low-level HIV/AIDS epidemic can become a concentrated epidemic in so short a time. We cannot and should not wait for that to happen. That is the greatest tragedy.
By Tim Yap (The Philippine Star) Updated December 12, 2009 12:00 AM
MANILA, Philippines - The Fashion Walk on Greenbelt 5 had a different buzz that night. A photo exhibit, with personalities from all walks of the visual spectrum, was the centerpiece that gathered scenesters from the style set. The iconic AIDS ribbon was the unifying factor that weaved through the portraits, all shot by Headshot Clinic head honcho Niccolo Cosme.
From being a project that empowered social networking fanatics by giving their profile picture a boost, the Headshot Clinic has now gone full force into advocacy, adopting the issue of AIDS and HIV awareness in the Philippines via digital photography as main medium of representation. The word of mouth is fast, as publicity is done through prevailing social networks, each profile pic probably taken at one of the Headshot Clinic projects.
Same time last year, UNAIDS supports The Headshot Clinic: AWARE to spread the issues and facts of HIV and AIDS. This year, UNAIDS and Project Headshot Clinic are working together once again to call for ACTION in fighting the spreading of HIV and AIDS. “It is a sad realization that as much as we are aware of the dangers, still more and more people are diagnosed with the desease — and so we have to MOVE,” said the photographer devoted to this cause.
The UNAIDS director Teresita Bagasao started work on HIV awareness back in the ’80s. She met one heterosexual woman who transmitted HIV from her husband. “If it happened to her, it can happen to me, too,” said Miss Bagasao, who asked to be called Bai. “A few years back, there was one case reported every three to four days. Now it is three to four cases of HIV infection every day. The numbers have risen,” Bai spoke in a calm and clear manner over cocktails at Greenbelt while walking through Niccolo Cosme’s portraits of people.
“We will fight it together, everyone has a voice and it should be heard,” said the visionary photographer who uses his distinctive style of hyper reality, for a purpose.
To date, the Headshot Clinic project has taken more than 5,000 headshots locally and abroad, and is continually spreading the call for freedom of expression. Niccolo believes that photography is his way of helping out, and has indeed conceptually created change, through his lenses.
MANILA, Philippines—The rising number of HIV and AIDS cases in the country has so worried the Saudi embassy here that it advised medical clinics processing overseas Filipino workers bound for Middle East countries to intensify medical exams and screening for workers to be deployed there, it was learned Thursday.
Departing Saudi Ambassador to the Philippines Muhammad Ameen Wali had called Dr. Rodolfo Punzalan, president and chairman of accredited clinics that screen OFWs leaving for the Gulf countries, to express his concern over the reported upsurge in the cases of human immuno-deficiency virus and acquired immuno-deficiency syndrome in the country.
"Discrimination targets individuals and groups that are vulnerable to attack: the disabled, women and girls, the poor, migrants, minorities, and all those who are perceived as different.
... But these victims of discrimination are not alone. The United Nations is standing with them, committed to defending the rights of all, and particularly the most vulnerable. That is our identity and our mission." Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
The realisation of all human rights - social, economic and cultural as well as civil and political rights – is hampered by discrimination. All too often, when faced with prejudice and discrimination, political leaders, governments and ordinary citizens are silent or complacent.
Yet everyone of us can make a difference. You are encouraged to celebrate Human Rights Day by advocating non-discrimination, organizing activities, raising awareness and reaching out to your local communities on 10 December and beyond.
Secretary-General's Message for Human Rights Day 2009
No country is free of discrimination. We see it everywhere, in many forms: old and new, covert and blatant, public and private. It may appear as institutionalized racism, as ethnic strife, as episodes of intolerance and rejection, or as an official national version of history that denies the identity of others.
Discrimination targets individuals and groups that are vulnerable to attack: the disabled, women and girls, the poor, migrants, minorities, and all those who are perceived as different.
These vulnerable people are frequently excluded from participating in the economic, political, cultural and social lives of their communities. The bigotry that stigmatizes and excludes them can be exploited by extremists. In some countries, we are witnessing the rise of a new politics of xenophobia.
But these victims of discrimination are not alone. The United Nations is standing with them, committed to defending the rights of all, and particularly the most vulnerable. That is our identity and our mission.
The international human rights community continues to counter bias and hatred. Public awareness has led to global treaties offering legal protection from discrimination and unequal treatment.
But abstract commitments are not enough. We must continue to confront inequality and intolerance wherever they are found.
On Human Rights Day, I invite people everywhere, at all levels, to join the United Nations and human rights defenders around the world in the fight against discrimination.
The new UNAIDS Philippines web-site is up. You can now access a broader range of information -- from the work of UNAIDS Cosponsors and Secretariat, events by and related news on UNAIDS Philippines, to contacts of HIV-related services in the country – anytime, anywhere. You will also be able to access the UNAIDS Library Publications and documents along with the emerging Digital Collection Services. Visit us at www.unaids.org.ph.
On this World AIDS Day we are filled with both hope and concern.
Hope because significant progress has been made towards universal access. New HIV infections have dropped. Fewer children are born with HIV. And more than 4 million people are on treatment.
Concern because 28 years into the epidemic the virus continues to make inroads into new populations; stigma and discrimination continue to undermine efforts to turn back the epidemic. The violation of human rights of people living with HIV, women and girls, men who have sex with men, injecting drug users and sex workers must end.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on "all countries to live up to their commitments to enact or enforce legislation outlawing discrimination against people living with HIV and members of vulnerable groups". On this World AIDS Day, let us work urgently to remove punitive laws and practices and put an end to discrimination against and criminalization of people affected by HIV.
On World AIDS Day let us also act on HIV prevention. For every two people put on treatment, five are newly infected. Too often prevention programmes are not reaching those most in need.
We can eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV. We can empower young people to protect themselves from HIV. We can stop violence against women and girls. We can protect drug users from becoming infected with HIV. And we can reduce sexual transmission of HIV.
Gains made today are fragile and must be sustained. The economic crisis should not be a reason for reducing investments in health. Economic adjustments must be made through a human rights lens that keeps the focus on those most vulnerable. This is the time to increase rather than decrease funding for AIDS.
AIDS provides a powerful mechanism for creating integrated health, human rights and development programmes. We must take AIDS out of isolation and create a broad social movement that will accelerate progress toward the Millennium Development Goals.
World AIDS Day provides an opportunity for all of us - individuals, communities and political leaders - to take action towards making universal access a reality.