Palawan still tops MIMAROPA in HIV cases
Palawan province remains on top in the MIMAROPA region with the highest human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cases. Regina Villapa, the coordinator for the city health office’s Sexually Transmitted Infections Human Immunodeficiency Virus Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (STI HIV AIDS) Prevention and Control Program, said 295 out of the total 590 HIV cases in MIMAROPA are in the province. Villapa said their records show that as of August this year, 198 patients are enrolled in the treatment hub and 139 of them are from Puerto Princesa City. She, however, refused to name the barangays where the HIV patients are from to protect their identities. To prevent the prevalence from growing more, the city government and the organizers of the Miss Universe Philippines represented by Catriona Gray, the 2018 pageant winner, signed a commitment on Monday called the “Fast-Track – Ending the AIDS Epidemic by 2030.” The commitment is a strategy by the UNAIDS that targets the reduction of the annual number of new HIV infections to 500,000 by 2020 and to less than 200,000 by 2030, Dr. Louie Ocampo, country director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), said. Ocampo said the strategy aims to increase the support of patients with HIV/AIDS. “Meron na tayong retroviral therapy na maiinom na gamot at within three to six months ay manumnumbalik na ang pasyente sa kanyang normal at healthy life,” he said. He added that HIV patients prefer not to seek available treatment services fearing “workplace discrimination, public humiliation and being stigmatized.” “Marami ang hindi nag-a-access ng treatment dahil sa stigma at discrimination. Ang ating ginagawa ngayon ay to fast-track and scale up ang mga serbisyo at mas iIapit sa mga communities,” Oca- mpo pointed out. He expressed optimism that by 2030 “the country’s major cities, including Puerto Princesa City will eliminate the dreaded disease. Also among the commitment partners are Save the Children, Global Fund, Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc., Love Yourself, Roots of Health, Ospital ng Palawan, and Project 4H Tandikan. “Ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Philippines by 2030 is achievable kayang-kaya if major cities like Puerto Princesa [will] act immediately to fasttrack case response. Ang ginagawa natin is decisively to fast-track HIV/AIDS response with renewed commitment,” Ocampo said. He said the commitment signing will, hopefully, establish the network of services delivery with the help of the different partners. The initiative is a multi-sectoral approach where the city government should formulate a Local Investment Plan for HIV/ AIDS that will have an allocation for five straight years to ensure the sustainability of programs and services, he said. Part of the commitment is the city government’s absorption of the community outreach workers who were hired by Global Fund to help in fast-tracking the delivery of treatment services to HIV patients. Mayor Lucilo Bayron said the city government will continue to support the City HIV/AIDS Council program and activities. He said they have allocat- ed more than P3 million for the HIV/AIDS program under the City Health Office ( CHO) this year and will increase the funding support in the 2019 annual budget. “Sa buong MIMAROPA ay tayo ang topnotcher kasi tayo rin naman ang pinaka-progresibo. Meron tayong programa at gusto natin magkaroon ng mas masigasig na detection services,” he said. Gray, on the other hand, said she can help the program by promoting the removal of barriers and by supporting and helping the institutions and organizations that work to eliminate the HIV challenge. “It is an amazing step that we are making today. I can help the city by promoting to remove the barriers because there is medication available that will lead us to healthy and normal lives. We will slowly break down the stigma. (HIV) is just like diabetes and can be treated,” she said. She said every individual should not fear routinely subjecting himself/herself to be HIV/AIDS tested just like checking their blood sugar and blood pressure as early prevention and detection.
Miss Universe Philippines 2018 Catriona Gray (2nd from left, seated), Puerto Princesa City Mayor Lucilo Bayron, and UNAIDS Country Director Dr. Louie Ocampo during the signing of the “Fast-Track – Ending the AIDS Epidemic by 2030“commitment on Monday, September 18, at the City Hall.