2015 Reflections

Posted by Pozziepinoy on 9:08 PM
Another year has passed and it is time for our yearly reflections on the HIV programs of the Project Red Ribbon and the HIV scene in the Philippines.

The General HIV Scene

2015 has seen the highest number of new HIV cases in the country and the highest number of deaths because of AIDS related infections. There was a spike also in the number of cases among the youth, specifically from 15-24 years old group. Project Red Ribbon has seen a lot of cases from 1yr old to 10 year old kids with HIV and AIDS who had suffered from abandonment of parents, poor health care facilities and problems in sustaining general health because of poverty. 

Last year, some of the country's social hygiene clinics started to become satellite treatment hubs, a move by the government to decentralize HIV services. Additional treatment hubs were also established in different provinces in the country. CD4 machines were also donated by the private sector to some satellite clinics and treatment hubs to provide initial CD4 testing for free.

In May 2015, the first ever National HIV Testing Week was implemented to promote the country-wide HIV test. This culminated to the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial which was commemorated on the same month. HIV and AIDS also became a part of the Universal Health Care High Impact (Hi-5) program of the Department of Health.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis was being studied and tried by the Department of Health as a supplement to condom use to prevent HIV in the country.

Continuing Challenges in the Country

1. Insufficient facilities/staff in the HIV and AIDS Treatment Hubs
    a. Most hubs in the provinces continue to have issues with:
        i.  CD4 machine and reagents
        ii. Viral Load Machine and reagents
        iii. Other laboratory equipments to diagnose AIDS related infections
    b. Inadequate HIV doctors 
    c. Inadequate HIV staff

2. Poor quality of health services
    a. Inadequate prophylaxes against AIDS related infections for indigent clients
    b. Inadequate medicines for AIDS related infections for indigent clients
    c. Inadequate vaccinations for indigent clients
    d. Inadequate HIV counselors and trainings for self-empowerment of people living with 
        HIV.
    e. Weak referral system among hospitals to HIV and AIDS Treatment Hubs

3. Strong Stigma and Discrimination
    a. People are still scared to take the HIV Test
    b. Weak information and education leads to issues with employment among PLHIV
    c. People are scared to get treatment because of these issues

4. Poor implementation of the HIV in the Workplace Policy
    a. Government, Public and Private companies still don't implement this policy even 
        though it is in RA 8504 (HIV Law)
   b. People are not empowered to fight for their rights as employees

5. Disclosure Issues
   a. People are still not empowered to fight against disclosure issues even though they are 
       in the RA 8505.

6. Weak Welfare Programs for HIV and AIDS
   a. Limited welfare services from the government leads to progression of infections 
       leading to death
   b. Indigent clients can't afford hospitalization, medicines against opportunistic infections,
       laboratory tests for diagnosis of AIDS related conditions

7. Weak Information Campaigns Against HIV and AIDS
   a. The Department of Education still doesn't have the political will to add HIV Prevention 
       and Control Education in the schools curriculum.
   b. The Local Government Units (LGU) don't implement total education about HIV and 
       AIDS including HIV Testing and treatment even with the continuing increase in the new 
       cases in their areas of jurisdiction. Lack of political in majority of LGU's leads to 
       weakness in the implementation of the HIV Law, including implementation of 
       campaigns for HIV testing and HIV in the Workplace Policy
   c. The Department of Labor and Employment continues to place menial fines to 
       companies not implementing the HIV in the Workplace Policy in companies. 
   d. Religious organizations continue to oppose condom use, thus media is hesitant in 
       promoting it as a form of prevention against the spread of HIV and AIDS.
   e. In general, the lack of political will and ignorance dictated by laid-back beliefs among 
       majority of politicians from the President to Barangay Officials continue to be the 
       barriers to all efforts in the prevention of the spread of HIV and AIDS in the country.

8. Lack of shelter for evicted or discriminated PLHIV
    a. Only a handful organizations offer shelter assistance 
    b. If, any, there are located in Manila or certain cities.

What Project Red Ribbon Had Done in 2015

1. Continued helping the indigent PLHIV regardless of:
    a. Race
    b. Sexual orientation and gender
    c. Age
    d. Severity of Case
    e. Financial Status
2. Continued focusing its programs on HIV Testing, Education, Treatment, Care and 
    Support
3. Helped government on its programs
    a. Partnered with the DOH-National AIDS/STI Prevention and Control Program
        i. Condom and Lubricant Distribution
       ii. IEC Material Distribution
      iii. Education Campaigns: posters, social media, mass media
       iv. Medicine support for the indigent clients with AIDS related infections
       v. Promotion of the National HIV Testing Week and HIV and AIDS International Events
    b. Revision of the guidelines of the Philippine Health Insurance, Inc.
    c. Strong support and implementation of the Department of Social Welfare and 
        Development HIV Welfare Program for:
       i. Medical and financial assistance
      ii. Educational Assistance
     iii. Livelihood Assistance
      iv. Burial Assistance
    d. Strong referral system to:
        i. Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office
        ii. LGU-Social Hygiene Clinics
       iii. HIV and AIDS Treatment Hubs

Reflections

The HIV Programs of the country will continue to be haunted by these issues unless there is a strong political will among government officials to finally stop the spread of HIV and AIDS in the country and to pay attention to the looming epidemic in the country. 2016 should be the time to be proactive while the cases every month is still in the hundreds. It is the right time for all the government, public, private companies, organizations and the different churches to come together and come up with a solution to stop this epidemic, once and for all, or for a long time we will be suffering from the ravages of HIV which will lead to increased mortality in the country.