Thursday, February 25, 2010

AIDS epidemic declared in Philippines

AIDS epidemic declared in Philippines

Source: ABS-CBN News

Sometimes 'vicious' Catholic Church can't stop Cabral

DOH to continue promoting condoms

MANILA, Philippines - The Catholic Church can be "vicious" at times, according to Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral, but that doesn't mean she's going to stop promoting condoms to fight HIV/AIDS in the country.

"Of course, I am afraid of the Church. They are very powerful and they can sometimes be very vicious. I'm not exactly one who likes to live dangerously," Cabral told ANC's Dateline Philippine on Wednesday when asked if she's affected by the bishops' threats against her for advocating the use of condoms, which is seen by the church as an abortion tool.

Cabral, however, said that she'd rather live dangerously than do nothing against the very alarming rise in the number of HIV/AIDS cases in the Philippines.

Data from the Department of Health (DOH) showed a total of 4,424 HIV/AIDS cases from 1984 to December 2009.

The highest number was recorded in 2009 with a total of 835 cases.

"At the rate we are going, in 3 years, we are going to have more than 30,000 people with HIV/AIDS in the Philippines," the health secretary said.

Cabral said that the alarming trend was the reason behind the DOH's renewed and intensified distribution of condoms to "those who cannot afford it," especially the youth.

During the week of this year's Valentine's Day celebrations, DOH officials were seen distributing free condoms in public places, including in Dangwa, Manila where many vendors sold flowers.
Each flower bouquet bought by a person or a couple came with free condoms courtesy of a private company.

Cabral has caught the ire of Catholic bishops in the country for actively distributing condoms, which is perceived by the church as a tool for abortion.

A bishop had called Cabral "immoral," and warned that one of her feet is already in hell for going against the teachings of the church.

Abstinence comes first
Cabral said that the distribution of condoms is actually the DOH's last resort to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.

She said the first option is abstinence, which is aligned with the Catholic Church's policy.

The health secretary, however, said she believes it is “unrealistic" to expect people to abstain from sex.

“There are a few of us who will do it, but most of the people are going to heed to their natural inclinations,” Cabral said.

She said that unlike the Catholic Church, the health department, as the guardian of health, is more concerned about people’s health than of morality.

“The Church is the guardian of morality and therefore, they should exert every effort to make sure that their teachings are heard,” she said.

Following abstinence is the promotion of monogamy, and the last option is the distribution of condoms “for people who cannot be good.”

He said the DOH provides these people “with the means to prevent HIV/AIDS, which is with the use of condoms.”

During the interview, Cabral said that she seems to be enjoying the support of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as she has not been told to stop the distribution of condoms.

Cabral said the DOH is also supported by non-government organizations (NGOs) and international groups, including an agency that includes billionaire Bill Gates as a main donor.

Aside from foreign aid, the health department has a fund of at least P2 million for the purchase and distribution of millions of condoms .

Source URL:

UNAIDS NGO Delegation Survey - We would like to hear from you!

Each year, the NGO Delegation to the UNAIDS governing body (called the Programme Coordinating Board or PCB) submits a report to the Board. This is an important opportunity for us to present the unique perspectives of civil society on the developments and issues around the AIDS pandemic. Broad input from civil society informs the NGO report, particularly regarding key issues on the agenda, but also regarding persistent or emerging issues “on the ground.”

This year, we anticipate that the June 2010 board meeting will include agenda items such as non-discrimination; men who have sex with men (MSM); and a thematic focus on sexual and reproductive health services linked to HIV.

We would like to get your input as we write this report. Please take a few minutes to complete this anonymous questionnaire, which is divided into three sections. The first section asks general information about you. The second section asks about how stigma and/or discrimination are impeding access to prevention, treatment, care and support. The third section asks about the programming of UNAIDS’ (including the ten Cosponsors) to tackle stigma and/or discrimination in your country or region.

The Survey is currently also available in Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish, Russian and French. It will soon be made available in Thai, Burmese, Swahili and Arabic. The deadline is March 15, 2010.

Link to
English Survey

International Council of AIDS Service Organizations

Mobilizing and supporting diverse community organizations
to build an effective response to HIV and AIDS.
65 Wellesley St. E., Suite 403 Toronto, ON Canada M4Y 1G7
Office: +1 416 921 0018 Fax: +1 416 921 9979

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

DOH chief snubs Church on condoms issue

photo source: PIA

By Jerry E. Esplanada
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:13:00 02/24/2010
Filed Under: Government, Diseases, Health, Churches (organisations)

MANILA, Philippines—Who’s afraid of the Catholic Church?

Not the Department of Health (DoH) which, despite strong opposition from the Church, has declared that it would continue giving away condoms to “people who need them.”

The condom distribution program is one of the “very many things that, if we actually do them, is going to reduce remarkably the spread of HIV-AIDS in the Philippines,” Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral told the Inquirer.

Cabral said the incidence of HIV-AIDS (human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) in the country had acquired the proportions of “an epidemic, not just a scare.”

She said the health department’s other prevention strategy was “the education of young people, children in school, those in the workplace and Filipinos who go overseas, as well as tourists and transients.”
The DoH handed out free condoms on Valentine’s Day as part of its campaign to stem the spread of HIV, which causes AIDS. The move angered the Catholic Church, which forbids artificial birth control, including the use of condoms.

The bishops claimed that the way to stop the spread of HIV-AIDS was to follow the teachings of the Church and to respect the sanctity of the human body.

Resignation sought
In a statement posted Tuesday on the website of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Lipa Bishop Ramon Arguelles called for Cabral’s resignation.
“It’s so immoral for someone in the government to be pushing the use of condoms, which we all know is not a deterrent to AIDS,” Arguelles said.

The statement was signed by two other bishops—Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon and Dinualdo Gutierrez of Marbel.

Arguelles said Cabral should be dismissed and should not be allowed to influence the nation’s young.

“It’s worrying because it is the morality in society, especially among the youth, that is at stake,” he said.

Agence France Presse reported that when asked to comment on the matter, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s spokesperson Gary Olivar brushed off the bishops’ call.
“We should remember that public officials should be judged by standards of public policy interest as set forth in our laws and legal precedents, and not the morality of this or that institution,” Olivar told reporters.

About 75 million Filipinos, out of a national population of 93 million, are Catholics—a legacy of the country’s Spanish colonial past.

Secular state
Commenting on the Catholic bishops’ opposition to the condom distribution program, Cabral said: “Di naman yan tago, di ba (It’s very obvious, isn’t it)? They are very open about it.”

“[But] we are not a religious state [like] Iran. We are a secular state where there is separation of Church and State,” she pointed out.

Cabral said that “while it is very important for us to find out what [the Catholic bishops] think, to cooperate with them in areas where we can be cooperating, the government is the government and must do what it thinks is right for everybody.”

She added that “not everybody in the Philippines belongs to one church,” and that the DoH was “always willing to discuss and negotiate” the matter with Catholic Church officials.

Cabral said the health department’s intensified condom distribution program was justified.

Cause for alarm
“We should be properly alarmed because as the data show, [HIV-AIDS has become] an escalating problem,” Cabral said, adding:

“From an incidence of one person diagnosed every day as having HIV-AIDS two or three years ago, last year we were diagnosing two persons [with] HIV-AIDS every day.”

During the past two months, the number of HIV-AIDS cases has risen to four persons diagnosed with the disease daily, Cabral said.

She said that according to a graph on the incidence of HIV-AIDS over the past two decades—“and I think this is why we became a little complacent about the problem”—the “doubling time” was 10 years.

“In other words, it took 10 years for the cases to double from, say, 100 to 200,” she said. But today, “the doubling time is one year,” Cabral pointed out.

With that rate, she warned, “now we have a total of 4,400 cases of HIV-AIDS known to us. At the end of the year, that would be 8,800. If the doubling rate remains stable, at the end of 2011, that’s going to be 17,600. At the end of 2011, that’s going to be 34,400.”

“We really need to do something about it,” she said.

Not in the budget
No funds were appropriated by Congress for the procurement of condoms in the health budget for 2010, according to Cabral.

Asked why, she said it appeared that the HIV-AIDS problem was “not recognized” by both policymakers and legislators.

“People were just watching,” she said.
In the absence of local funds, Cabral said the DoH would tap standby funds provided by international agencies.

She cited as an example the program in the Philippines called “Global Fund for the Control of AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria,” which amounts to “something like $215 million spread over the years.”

Private fund
The money comes from a private fund to which the likes of billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates contributes, she said.

Cabral said that while only about $85 million had been released for AIDS, “I think there’s an amount—$19 million (over P850 million)—in that fund … for the purchase of prophylactics or condoms.”
“Our national government actually signed [up for] and committed to this thing,” she said.

USAID support
For more than 30 years since the 1970s, the Philippines had relied on international organizations, mainly the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for its population program.

USAID support for the Philippine government came at $3.5 million annually, which was intended to subsidize condoms, birth control pills, and injectable and intrauterine contraceptives.

In June 2000, USAID said it was anticipating a dramatic increase in the public sector’s demand for contraceptives, and that it would cut back on the supply over a period of time because of limited funding sources.

In that year, while the Philippines’ Department of Health noted an increase in the use of contraceptives over the years, population growth remained at a steady 2.3 percent annually.

USAID stopped shipping condoms to the Philippines in 2003, birth control pills in 2007, and injectable contraceptives in 2008.

With reports from Agence France-Presse and Inquirer Research

DOH chief to keep on distributing condoms to stop HIV-AIDS

photo source: pinoy

By Jerry E. Esplanada
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 13:36:00 02/23/2010

Filed Under: Health, Government, Churches (organisations), Religion & Belief

MANILA, Philippines—(UPDATE) Who’s afraid of the Catholic Church?

Definitely not the Department of Health (DoH). Unflinching in its condom distribution program to help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral said it would continue giving away condoms, or prophylactics, to “people who need them.”

According to Cabral, this is one of the “very many things that are going to reduce remarkably the growth of HIV-AIDS in the Philippines.”

She said the country has been facing the threat of an epidemic for a few years now but has not done anything about it. "We really need to do something about it. It is an epidemic. Not just a scare. It was an epidemic a few years ago but hindi pa napapansin (but it was not noticed)," Cabral said.

Other DOH strategies include “education of young people, children in school, those in the workplace and Filipinos who go overseas, as well as tourists and transients who come to the Philippines,” Cabral told the Philippine Daily Inquirer

When interviewed, Cabral pointed out that no funds were appropriated by Congress for the procurement of condoms in the 2010 DOH budget. “It's not written in the 2010 budget,” she said.

Asked why, Cabral said it seemed the HIV-AIDS problem was “not recognized (by both policy-makers and legislators)...People were just watching.”

In the absence of locally sourced funds, the DOH head said they would tap stand-by funds provided by “international agencies.”

“For example, in the Philippines, there is a program called GFATM, which means Global Fund for the Control of AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.”

Cabral said money for the GFATM would come from a private fund to which philanthropists such as Microsoft founder Bill Gates has been contributing.

Cabral revealed that the fund intended for the Philippines amounted to $215 million. "But this is spread over the years,” she explained

“Although only about $85 million have been released for AIDS, I think there's an amount - $19 million (over P850 million) - in that fund not just for this year but spread over the years. And part of that fund is for the purchase of prophylactics or condoms. So our national government actually signed and committed to this thing. Kasi tinanggap natin 'yung fund (Because we accepted the fund),” she said.

On the Catholic Church's opposition to DOH's condom distribution program, Cabral said “very obvious naman 'yan (Their opposition is quite obvious).”

“Di naman 'yan tago, di ba (That’s not been hidden)? They are very open about it,” she said. But Cabral in pushing for condom distribution said the country continued to exist as a “democratic secular state.”

“We are not a religious state, such as Iran. We are a secular state where there is separation of church from state,” she pointed out.

Cabral emphasized that “while it is very important for us to find out what they think, to cooperate with them in areas where we can be cooperating with, the government is the government and must do what it thinks is right for everybody.”

"Not everybody in the Philippines belongs to one church,” she also stressed.

At the same time, Cabral said they would always be "willing to discuss and negotiate (with Catholic Church officials).”

Some Catholic bishops wanted Cabral kicked out of office because of the DoH condom project, which they said could endanger the people's morals.

The DoH distributed free condoms on Valentine's Day as part of its campaign to stem the spread of HIV, which causes AIDS.

The bishops said people should follow the teachings of the Church and respect the sanctity of their bodies to stop the spread of the disease.

But Cabral said the agency's intensified condom distribution program was justified.
“We should be properly alarmed because as the (HIV-AIDS) data show, HIV-AIDS is an escalating problem,” she said.

She said that three years ago, one person was diagnosed as having HIV-AIDS every day. But in 2009, the rate rose to two persons with HIV-AIDS every day.

During the past two months, HIV-AIDS cases have “gone up to four persons diagnosed (with the disease) every day.”

“If you look at the graph on the incidence of HIV-AIDS over the past two decades, you will see that in the past, and I think this is why we became a little complacent about the problem, the doubling time for HIV-AIDS was 10 years. In other words, it took 10 years for the cases to double from, say 100 to 200.”

Today, “the doubling time is one year,” she said. “So, at this rate, now we have a total of 4,400 cases of HIV-AIDS known to us. At the end of the year, that would be 8,800. If the doubling rate remains stable, at the end of 2011, that's going to be 17,600. At the end of 2011, that's going to be 34,400,” she warned.

"We really need to do something about it,” Cabral said.

Interview of Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral and the Catholic Church on HIV/AIDS & Condom issues

For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

GMA News Live on Issue of HIV/AIDS in the Philippines

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

HIV/AIDS in the workplace

We’ve known about it for quite sometime now but most of us have not gone to town with the information because many among us felt that there were better ways to “announce” it. Don’t get me wrong. I also share the belief that people need to know that there has been a marked increase in HIV infections among young professionals. I’ve written about the dramatic increase in HIV infections in this column recently.

I believed that people in the call center industry needed to be informed that according to recent data from the Department of Health, there had been an alarming increase in the number of HIV infections among call center agents. However, I felt that this kind of information needed to be explained well. Better still, this kind of information needed to be supported by a concrete program of action so that people didn’t have to go into the default reaction mode—shock and denial. I would have wanted government and the community of non-government organizations working on HIV/AIDS prevention to engage the call center industry in a more proactive and productive dialogue instead of shocking them with the information through media.

But it seems newly appointed Secretary of Health Esperanza Cabral had other ideas. She went public with the information recently. And as can be expected, media sensationalized it. ABS-CBN even did a series of stories on it for a week. HIV/AIDS is once again a favorite topic although I have a sneaking suspicion that the attention won’t last very long—at least not long enough to actually impel people to push more and better HIV/AIDS prevention programs.

This has actually happened many times in the past already. I am not saying Secretary Cabral may be simply paying lip service to the HIV/AIDS issue. As an HIV/AIDS activist who has been working on HIV/AIDS prevention since the eighties, I am fervently hoping and praying that Cabral is serious and sincere in pursuing a more comprehensive, more focused, and more intensive HIV/AIDS prevention program and control program.

My cynicism has basis. All newly appointed Health Secretaries have always used HIV/AIDS to call attention to themselves. There’s really nothing quite like HIV/AIDS as an issue. It is a medical issue, yes. But it is also an explosive social issue as it inevitably encompasses discussions about sexual practices, vulnerable communities, and consequently, discrimination and stigmatization. It is a development issue because HIV/AIDS comes with a great cost and a third-world country such as the Philippines cannot really afford the economic cost of an HIV/AIDS epidemic. It is an economic issue because it affects individuals who are at the prime of their lives—people who are productive and who can contribute the most to their families and to society.

Unfortunately, the country’s HIV/AIDS prevention programs have obviously been a total failure after Juan Flavier’s and Carmencita Reodica’s terms as health secretary. How else do we explain the fact that infection rates have officially doubled last year? We used to be a best-practice showcase in terms of HIV/AIDS prevention and the world looked to the Philippines for lessons in effective HIV/AIDS prevention and control. Today, most non-government organizations working on HIV/AIDS prevention are dead. The very few who are left are gasping for dear breath. There’s hardly any money for HIV/AIDS prevention programs. In fact, there is actually no new money in the system for HIV/AIDS prevention. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

Because of the renewed media attention, I received a couple of calls from friends in the call center industry who inquired about the veracity of the Health Secretary’s information. I assured them that Secretary Cabral’s information is founded on empirical data. Data about HIV/AIDS infections in this country are actually very public information and can be accessed online easily. But as in the past, my friends were in full defense mode citing all kinds of possible explanations for the supposed glitch in the statistics. They cited several possible gaps that account for the reported high infection rates among call center agents. Denial is a common reaction when faced with alarming information, particularly about something like HIV/AIDS.

My friends wanted to know if there was a possibility that more call agents tested positive for HIV because the call center industry happened to be the industry with the most number of employees whose demographic profile fit the global profile of those most vulnerable for HIV infection: Young (between the ages of 15-39), sexually active, productive (i.e., with money to spend), etc. This is possible, of course.

My friends also theorized that the call center industry’s liberal recruitment and hiring policies—unlike, say, banks that would supposedly have more stringent hiring requirements in terms of lifestyles and values—probably account for the high incidence of HIV infections among call center agents. Call centers are supposedly more open to hiring candidates who are more outgoing, more sexually active, more open- minded and prone to experimentation. In short, my friends were saying that the phenomenon is not really borne out of factors that are inherent in the call center industry—it’s just that the industry hosts people who are probably more vulnerable to HIV infection. I agreed with them on this score too; all of these are highly feasible.

It is unfortunate that it seems the call center industry seems to have been singled out as breeding ground for HIV/AIDS infection. I don’t think this was really the intent. And I think people should really stop making a causal relationship between the call center industry and HIV/AIDS infections. The last thing we need is for some sanctimonious group or people to being attacking the industry for promoting immorality, and worse, to begin advocating for stringent controls for the industry.

But like I said, this is the nature of the HIV/AIDS issue—there is inherent stigma and discrimination attached to people living with HIV/AIDS or towards people suspected of being susceptible to it. This is why the natural reaction for most people who have been exposed to HIV is to go into denial or to go underground. Which is why HIV information, prevention and education programs need to be empowering to begin with rather than threatening and fear-inducing.

At any rate, the challenge now is putting in place effective HIV/AIDS prevention and education programs. This includes HIV/AIDS in the workplace programs because whether we like it or not, we’ll have to start learning how to manage a workplace that has become a little more challenging than ever before. Whether we like it or not we’ll have to begin putting in place programs that address the distinct needs of people living with HIV/AIDS at work.

Source: Manila Standard Today

HIV cases in Manila

“PGH on Wednesday said the number of Filipinos infected with HIV rose dramatically in the past 10 months and now includes young urban professionals such as call center agents. Doctors at the PGH Infectious Disease Treatment Complex said the number of human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV) cases in the hospital rose to 100 in the past 10 months. Records from the Department of Health showed that the number of HIV cases rose to 709 last year, compared to 528 in 2008. Dr. Edsel Savana of the PGH Infectious Disease Treatment Complex said most of those who contract HIV are sex workers, gays and drug addicts. Dr. Katerina Leyritana, however, said hospitals have also recorded HIV cases among young urban professionals such as call center agents. She said majority of the recent HIV cases tend to be younger, mostly from ages 15-29, who are well educated. Some of those infected said they got the illness after engaging in casual or group sex, which they discovered through social networking sites on the Internet. “There are a lot of sites right now that can organize orgies quickly. A lot of young people believe in casual sex,” she said. If current trends hold, the health department said HIV patients in the country could balloon to 20,000 cases by 2020. The PGH said it will conduct a massive information drive to warn people about the possible dangers of unsafe sex. (Source: ABS-CBN)”

Monday, February 22, 2010

DOH chief scores Church for blocking AIDS prevention effort

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo swears in Dr. Esperanza Cabral as Acting Secretary of the Department of Health (DOH) in a ceremony Tuesday (January 26) at Malacanang’s Aguinaldo State Dining Room. (PNA/NIB photo by D.Aguilar)V3/jme

GMA TV News, Philippines

The Catholic Church should share the blame for the government’s failure to stem the rising number of Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV-AIDS) infections in the country.

Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral made this claim on Thursday, saying that the Church is partially blocking government efforts to prevent HIV-AIDS by having people use condoms.

“Masasabi ko na bigo dahil di kumpleto ang ating programa dahil sa malaking pagtutol ng sektor ng simbahan sa third component sa prevention ng HIV-AIDS, at ito ang paggamit ng condom (I can say our program to prevent HIV-AIDS has failed because the Church is blocking the third component of our program, which is to encourage the use of condoms)," Cabral said in an interview on dzXL radio.

The Department of Health had launched a program known by the acronym ABC – where A is for “abstinence from sex", B for “be faithful to your partner" and C for “condom use" to combat HIV-AIDS.

On the other hand, the Catholic Church has been hitting the Health Department’s distribution of condoms last Valentine’s weekend, saying that the action might be misunderstood the government is advocating sexual licentiousness.

The DOH has stood by its decision on the matter. [See: DOH stands by free condoms campaign]

Cabral said that while condoms are not 100-percent foolproof, they help prevent the incidence of HIV-AIDS infection.

She also pointed out that aside from promoting the use of condoms, her department also prioritizes abstinence and being faithful.

“Di 100% foolproof pero ang risk mababawasan talaga. Ang pinaka-foolproof na paraan para di magkaroon ng STD, huwag makipagtalik maski kanino lalaki man o babae (Condoms are not 100 percent foolproof but they help lower the risk. But the most foolproof way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases is to avoid sex with multiple partners, whether with a man or woman)," she said.

Bad to worse
Late last January, University of the Philippines College of Medicine associate professor and Philippine General Hospital (PGH) Infectious Diseases Department head Dr. Edcel Salvana said the HIV-AIDS situation in the country has gone from bad to worse.

Salvana said there were only two HIV confirmed cases in the country in 1984, but the number jumped to 118 after 10 years.

He said that in 2004, confirmed HIV cases reached 199. In 2007 until October of 2009, the number has drastically gone up to 629, more than double the previous years’ recorded cases.

For 2009, Salvana said the Department of Health (DOH) recorded two HIV-AIDS cases daily.

He said there is a possibility that there are many more HIV-AIDS positive people who are not coming out in the open.

Victims of the deadly disease now include teenagers as young as 16 years old, young professionals, medical practitioners, lawyers and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Salvana said all confirmed cases were diagnosed to have acquired the disease through sex. Three-fourths of the victims were male while one-fourth was female.

HIV cases became more prevalent because of current male-to-male or gay-to-gay, lesbian-to-lesbian sexual contacts, with all those involved not using condoms during sexual encounters, she added.


Needle-sharing cause of HIV in Cebu

Manila Bulletin


Cebu City — Needle-sharing among drug users is the main reason why there has been an increase in the number of Human Immunodeficiency virus (HIV) positive cases in this city, according to Dr. Ilya Tac-an of this city’s Health Department.

Tac-an explained that of the 18 cases recorded last year, 17 involved people engaging in the share of needles.

The youngest age with HIV case recorded here is 15 years old while the oldest is 79.

The city health department has recorded 98 cases of HIV since 1989. Among those who tested positive for the disease were registered sexual worker, OFWs and homosexuals in a male-to-male relationship.

Tac-an also confirmed that those found positive are mostly drug dependents who use unsterilized needles or share used needles, making the latter the mode for viral transmission.

“High-risk behaviors which include unsafe sexual relations, multiple sex partners aside from sharing needles are also among the causes that facilitate the spread of HIV,” she said.

Further, the health official underlined that findings pointing at call center agents being more prone to contract HIV should be clarified as “anybody who is involved in risky sexual behavior and sharing of needles is a possible candidate in getting the said disease, and not only call center agents.”

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Region 9 holds consultation on HIV/AIDS

PIA Daily News, Philippines

By Narrabelle Zamora-Bue

Zamboanga City (17 February) -- The Department of Social Welfare and Development conducted a one-day consultative workshop on HIVAIDS participated by the different government agencies and non-government organizations on February 10 at Astoria Hotel.

The activity aims to support and strengthen the role of social workers/community volunteers and health workers in promoting the rights and welfare of persons with the HIV/AIDS which has been termed as PLHIV (Persons Living with HIV).

The alarming increase of HIV cases has prompted the government to enforce the Philippine Aids Law (RA8504) of which the DSWD is mandated to provide assessment for livelihood opportunities to the infected and the affected persons and the community and to likewise develop programs that will look into their welfare.

DSWD Regional Director Teodulo Romo, in his message, stressed the need to come up with ways on how to assist the PLHIV and the family considering the stigma and discrimination that they experience.

"We hope to look into the psycho-social aspect of the person and the affected family with the goal of providing opportunities for them to participate in skills training and livelihood programs that will empower them and maintain their normalcy as individuals in the community," Romo emphasized.

Ms. Gemma Gabuya, Officer-In-Charge of Social Technology Bureau of DSWD Central Office revealed that the activity is a preparatory for the implementation of the care and Support Services for Persons with HIV/AIDS and their families which was earlier pilot-tested in NCR and Region III.

A harmonized referral system is also one of the expected outputs of the consultative dialogue which will paved the way for a systematic and comprehensive services provided by the government and some NGOs at the regional and provincial level.

Further, a referral system hopes to promote social acceptance and respect for PLHIV and those caring for HIV-infected persons. It will also facilitate their active participation in decisions affecting their lives.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Letter to Partners 2010: Michel Sidibé, Executive Director, UNAIDS

In his 2010 letter to partners, Mr Michel Sidibé takes stock of his first twelve months in office as UNAIDS Executive Director, and provides his vision for the coming years. Against the backdrop of an epidemic in transition, he outlines a core set of values that can change the course of the epidemic. These include getting equity, banking on evidence, ensuring rights and dignity, aiming for zero new infections while providing treatment for everyone who needs it and leveraging interconnectedness of health and development.

“Our challenge now is to take the progress that countries have made towards universal access and use it to achieve the Millennium Development Goals,” said Mr Sidibé.

Setting the agenda for 2010 Mr Sidibé emphasized three issues. First, taking steps towards ending mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Second, reducing the number of new infections to zero and initiating new thinking around next generation of treatment options. And lastly to focus on tomorrow’s leaders by identifying, mentoring and learning from the younger generation of leaders that will carry the AIDS response ahead.

Read more here

Have your say on Community Systems Strengthening!

Photo credit: International HIV/AIDS Alliance


The International HIV/AIDS Alliance (Alliance) and the International Council of AIDS Services Organizations (ICASO) are conducting an online consultation for civil society to input into the draft framework that has been developed to outline community systems strengthening (CSS for short).

The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has developed the CSS Framework in collaboration with other stakeholders to make it clearer the range of community strengthening activities the Global Fund is mandated to support.

We want your views on this framework, which will play an important role for anyone working at a community level.

Filling the gaps
The CSS framework has been developed in recognition that there are gaps in funding for many aspects of community action on HIV, TB, malaria, reproductive health and other health-related issues. It has been developed specifically to support the CSS component of Global Fund grants, but is applicable to all community based activities aimed at improving health though community based action.

By feeding back on the draft framework, you will help further develop what will become a key document, which can:

• Help civil society actors articulate and scale up their activities, and access Global
Fund funding.
• Equip governments to better understand the vital roles of community actors
particularly when building stronger health systems.
• Enable the Global Fund to make informed decisions about awarding grants to
proposals strong in CSS.

How to have your say

1. Read the Draft CSS framework (translations available) and/or the summary
Go to:
http://www.aidsa/ llia ils.aspx?Id=405

Don't have time to read the full version? Read the summary

• We've read it for you - and condensed the vital information.

2. Have your say on the e-Forum. Join the online focused discussion that will open a
space for dialogue on the framework. Send an email NOW to:

3. Take the online survey

Available from 16 February at:
http://www.aidsa llia ils.aspx?Id=405

4. Get your friends to have their say. Use the 'send to a friend link' below, or use the
social networking icons to spread the word.

5. Watch out for more details on how to participate over the next few weeks.

It is in all our interests to make sure that the CSS framework is as strong as possible so please participate!

For further information, email Taline Haytayan at the Alliance at
The International Council of AIDS Service Organizations (ICASO) is the global host for the
Civil Society Action Team (CSAT). For CSAT-related information, contact us at or read about the work of CSAT at

DOLE warns employers vs HIV/AIDS discrimination

Photo source: WN / Trigedia

GMA TV News, Philippines

As it intensified its prevention drive on Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Monday warned employers against discriminating employees afflicted with the disease.

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque issued the warning as his department intensified its information drive on HIV and AIDS prevention in workplaces.

In a statement, Roque reminded employers of the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998, where HIV testing should not be required as a precondition for employment.

Any form of discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS is sanctioned, he said.

Roque also said he has directed the Occupational Safety and Health Center (OSHC) to intensify its efforts in reaching and informing workers on the dangers of risky behaviors at the workplace that may lead to HIV/AIDS infection.

He also urged companies to set up a comprehensive HIV/AIDS policy and program that will deal with prevention and elimination of discrimination of persons with HIV/AIDS.

Figures from the Department of Health (DOH) indicated a steep increase in the number of reported HIV and AIDS cases in the 25-34 year-age group.

Republic Act 8504 also includes provisions that require HIV/AIDS education programs to be given in all government and private offices and in communities.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

7 candidates slam DOH over free condoms

photo source AP

Presidential candidates for the May 10, 2010 national eletions, from left, Sen. Benigno Aquino III, Sen. Richard Gordon, Sen. Jamby Madrigal, Nicanor Perlas, John Carlos De Los Reyes, Gilbert Teodoro, Eddie Villanueva, show their stand for a clean elections following a forum with foreign correspondents based in Manila, Philippines Monday Feb. 15, 2010. Nine candidates are running for a fixed 6-year term for the highest position of the land in the first-ever automated elections in May.

By Cathy C. Yamsuan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:36:00 02/16/2010

Filed Under: Inquirer Politics, Eleksyon 2010, Family planning, Religion & Belief, Health

MANILA, Philippines—No more free condoms—not on Valentine’s Day or on any conceivable occasion.

The Department of Health (DoH) had better not do a repeat of last weekend’s caper of distributing free condoms at the Dangwa market to people buying flowers for their Valentine.

Seven presidential candidates were asked Monday at a forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (Focap) whether they would fund the distribution of free condoms or other forms of artificial birth control.

All seven said they were not keen on funding the freebies, whether to prevent pregnancy or the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Sen. Richard Gordon of the Bagumbayan Party said giving away condoms was useless unless its purpose was properly explained.

“[Because of] poor education, Filipinos cannot even discern whether they need a condom or not,” he said.

Information campaign

Gordon and independent candidate Sen. Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal agreed that instead of giving away free condoms, the DoH should have conducted an information campaign on the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

“It should have been information-driven,” Madrigal said, adding that HIV, which causes AIDS, is transmitted by blood transfusion or sexual contact with an infected person.

Sen. Benigno Aquino III of the Liberal Party pointed out that Congress, not Malacañang, had power over the government purse, meaning, the President had no authority over funds for the DoH or for condoms.

“I support responsible parenthood,” he said.

However, Aquino raised fears that the Valentine weekend gimmick could be used to justify “the renewal of the same budget” in the future.

In what context?

Environmentalist Nicanor Perlas said he was not against the use of condoms per se but he was concerned why the government was distributing them.

“It depends on the context. It happened on Feb. 14. So, under what context was it done?” he said.

Administration candidate Gilbert Teodoro said the use of family planning methods, whether natural or artificial, remained “the moral choice of the person” concerned.
“The government must be willing to support [the person’s decision] in the context of a program. So I am not excluding any particular method,” he clarified.

Personal choice

However, Teodoro said the issue of HIV/AIDS could involve the use of condoms as a preventive measure.

“HIV is a real and present threat. In the case of a private person consulting with physicians of the government or nongovernmental organizations, there is a need to respect the physician-patient privilege. In terms of disease prevention, because of fear or stigma, privacy should remain supreme,” he said.

Bro. Eddie Villanueva of the Bangon Pilipinas Movement said his group maintained its opposition to the use of “all forms of abortion because it is murder per se.”

The Catholic Church allows only natural family planning and considers the use of artificial contraceptives as abortive.

Villanueva said he would leave it to the parents to guide their children on making such personal choices.

Villanueva added that the government’s budget for free condoms should have been allocated to programs that would “propel the economic engine.”

Thai experience

Olongapo Councilor JC de los Reyes cited Thailand’s experience where its massive campaign for condom use backfired, resulting in higher incidence of AIDS.

“The government must push for moral policies. The condom campaign is a waste of money. It is uneconomical and immoral,” he said.

Presidential candidates Manny Villar and Joseph Estrada were no-shows at the presidential forum.

Health authorities meet against AIDS

Philstar, Philippines
By Jessica Ann R. Pareja

Following reports of increasing HIV cases in the country, health authorities met yesterday to discuss ways to prevent the disease.

Dr. Jose Gerard Belimac, manager of National AIDS and STI Prevention and Control Program (NASPC) of the National Center for Disease Prevention and Control, said that time will come that patients will develop resistance to antiretroviral drugs, which is currently the most common and available medication for HIV patients.

Antiretroviral drugs (ARD), also known as antiretroviral treatment (ART), work to suppress the multiplication of the virus.

“The use of combination antiretroviral therapy has significantly improved the survival of people with HIV and AIDS (Acquired immune deficiency syndrome). The evolution of drug resistant subpopulation of HIV can significantly limit the ability of ART to suppress viral replication. Resistance to Antiretroviral drugs is the most important cause of treatment failure,” NASPC said.

Belimac said that so far, there are no reports of resistance to ARD but if this happens, the more health authorities will have a hard time solving the problem on HIV infection

“There is still no cure for the disease and even the treatment is lifelong for HIV patients. If they develop resistance to the treatment, it will increase the fatality in a short span of time,” Belimac said.

Belimac said that in 2000, one HIV case is reported every three days but in 2009, two new cases are already reported in a day.

He said that so far, the country is capable of providing treatment available to 13 treatment hubs all over the country. In Cebu, there is only one treatment hub at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center.

“The problem is more on social issues of the patients. Sometimes patients do not come back for follow-ups. If there is no constant follow-up, their condition may be upgraded to a higher regimen which will already be costly for them,” Belimac said.

He said that for first line regimen or the early stage of HIV, treatment is given for free by DOH to those who are diagnosed in any of the 13 treatment hubs.

The budget per patient per month is P10,000 for the ART which is being implemented by DOH since 2004.

Belimac said that budget comes from donations from foreign donors and from the DOH allocation for HIV. He reported that last year, DOH spent P6 million for the treatment of HIV patients.

Belimac urged the public that those vulnerable to the disease better have themselves diagnosed early for early treatment and prevention.

“Because symptoms will not show up until after 10 years when the disease is already in its acute stage,” she said.

Belimac said that those vulnerable to HIV are individuals who had multiple sex partners and those who have used prohibited drugs.

Copyright © 2009. Philstar

Thursday, February 11, 2010

ARMM doctors alarmed by unrecorded HIV-AIDS cases

photo source:
By Charlie Señase
Inquirer Mindanao
First Posted 06:38:00 02/10/2010

Filed Under: Health, Overseas Employment, Epidemic and Plague

COTABATO CITY, Philippines -- Authorities have warned the public about the growing incidence of HIV-AIDS after official health records showed that four Filipino women from the island provinces of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, who have held jobs overseas, have been afflicted with HIV-AIDS.

Dr. Tahir Sulaik, former ARMM health secretary, said an OFW health worker afflicted with the dreaded disease along with the three others reportedly got infected in their places of assignment abroad.

"We discovered them in 2009 and they are all women OFWs," said Sulaik, who has returned to his former post as Maguindanao health chief.

"The entry of HIV cases in the region is not the sole responsibility of the health department but should also be the concern of everybody within ARMM, knowing the health hazard that it poses to others," said Sulaik, who has been replaced by Dr. Kadil Sinolinding as regional health secretary during a recent Cabinet reorganization following the suspension of ARMM Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan, who has been linked to the Nov. 23 Maguindanao massacre.

Sinolinding said, "it is not remote though that we might have other unreported cases of HIV positives in the region."

The new ARMM health chief assured the public he would continue Sulaik's vigorous programs for a region-wide disease detection in order to prevent more infections.

"So far no HIV cases have been recorded this year, but we cannot discount the possibility that there could be more (unreported cases)," Sinolinding said.

He attributed the unrecorded HIV cases to shame, conservative culture, family sensitivity, and fear of those with HIV-AIDS of being ostracized by society.

Both Sulaik and Sinolinding encouraged patients to consult health experts or get treatment at the nearest health centers anywhere in the ARMM.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

BPO sector asked to address HIV in workplace

photo source:

February 9, 2010, 4:06pm
Manila Bulletin

Employers in business process outsourcing (BPO) sector were asked Tuesday to seriously tackle HIV/AIDS in the workplace after an increase in the number of positive HIV cases was noted among its workers.

Kabataan Party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino said that the BPO executives must face the matter with sensitivity in order not to alienate individuals in the workplace sick with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

“Instead of being irrationally defensive and trivializing the matter, BPO companies should face the problem and express collective concern given the work-related, unhealthy routine of their employees,’’ Palatino said in a statement.

“There is really a need to educate both the BPO workers and their employers.
Education and awareness is the resolution, not discrimination,’’ he said.

Palatino was reacting to a study conducted by the University of the Philippines Population Institute (UPPI) and the Department of Health-Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC), which indicated an alarming HIV-prone lifestyle of some BPO workers.

The study showed that due to their environment and peer pressure, call center agents “tend to involve in risky sexual behaviors.’’

“More call center workers have early penetrative premarital sex and have had sex with same sex. Twenty percent of male call center agents are commercial sex workers while 14 percent of them give payment in exchange for sex,’’ the study said.

The study also revealed there are more call center agents who have a regular non-romantic sexual partner.

The study entitled: “Lifestyle and Reproductive Health Issues of Young Professionals in Metro Manila and Metro Cebu’’ was aimed at examining the economic, social and health status of young professionals less than 35 years old working at call centers and non-call centers.

It included 929 respondents from 35 BPO establishments, who have at least completed two years of college.

Authors of the study had underscored, however, that it is not safe to conclude that the higher prevalence of sexual risk behavior among call center workers can be attributed to working in the call centers.

But some BPO executives were too quick to justify the reported increase (in HIV among its workers), adding that they conduct HIV tests before hiring.

Palatino said the statements of the BPO executives were “discriminatory,’’ stressing that the HIV tests should be optional.

Citing Republic Act 8504 or the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998, Palatino said "compulsory HIV testing shall be considered unlawful" and "discrimination, in all its forms and subtleties, against individuals with HIV or persons perceived or suspected of having HIV shall be considered inimical to individual and national interest.”

The party-list lawmaker said that BPO firms should use the study as a guide in seriously looking at the risky behavior of their workers.

In a related development, President Arroyo said that jobs in the BPO firms are expected to hit the one million mark within the year amid the continued growth of the industry.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Increase in HIV cases in Negros Occidental reported

ABS-CBN News, Philippines

By Barbara Mijares, ABS-CBN Negros

MANILA, Philippines – The provincial health office in Negros Occidental on Friday reported an increased number of HIV/AIDS cases recorded in 2009.

The health office said a total of 14 cases were recorded last year, which translates to a 16% increase as compared to 2008 where only 12 cases were reported.

It said that since 1993 to 2009, a total of 109 cases have been recorded, with 27 deaths allegedly due to complications brought about by the disease.

Dr. Luisa Efren of the provincial health office said majority of those found positive for HIV/AIDS are working or have worked abroad.

Efren urged Negrenses to bear in mind the practice of “ABCs” (Abstinence, Be faithful to your partner and Condom).

She said that core teams, which would be responsible for counselling people living with AIDS, are already in place in 4 hospitals in the province namely the Kabankalan District Hospital, Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital, Cadiz District Hospital and Silay Provincial Hospital.

She added that the core teams also provides and assists AIDS victims with their medication.

Efren, however, clarified that only the Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital gives out retro-viral drugs. The other hospitals provide medicines for diseases that may have been caused by failing immune systems of people living with HIV/AIDS.

She said that there may be more unreported cases of HIV/AIDS in the province because people with the disease avoid public seeking medical help out of shame and because of discrimination.

Cops also vulnerable to HIV—police

By Abigail Kwok
First Posted 11:07:00 02/02/2010

Filed Under: Health, Police, Diseases

MANILA, Philippines—Aside from call center agents, policemen are also vulnerable to getting infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) due to the nature of their work, the Philippine National Police revealed.

"They are usually transferred to different places from time to time and are, therefore, away from their families for long periods of time (and may be lonely)," according to an information campaign spearheaded by the PNP.

Police are also constantly exposed to police operations involving prostitution, drugs, and violent crimes, adding to their vulnerability.

The PNP also reported a high incidence of accidents involving policemen that require them to undergo blood transfusion, the PNP said.

Because of these vulnerabilities, the PNP launched an information campaign in an effort to protect its members from acquiring HIV.

HIV is a virus that destroys the body's ability to fight infection and disease, leading to full-blown AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). It spreads through sexual intercourse, blood transfusion, and from mother to child during pregnancy.

In a handout distributed to policemen titled, "AIDS Awareness and Prevention Card for the PNP," the PNP listed down the rights of policemen infected with HIV.

Citing Republic Act 8504 or the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998, the PNP said all HIV victims "cannot be denied access to employment and livelihood, admission in schools, travel and habitation, appointive office, credit and insurance, health care and decent burial services."

The PNP also cited other reasons why policemen are especially vulnerable to HIV: They comprise the age group of early 20s to mid 40s—the age of most HIV infected Filipinos; and they have high probability of engaging in casual sex without the use of condoms.

The PNP advised its members to modify their lifestyle and seek medical attention to avoid being infected with HIV.

"You cannot tell if someone has HIV or AIDS simply by looking. A person living with HIV may look and feel healthy and may not even know he or she is infected."
"A blood test is the only way a person can find out one's HIV status," the PNP said