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Aiming for a responsible and AIDS–free generation
by Marlene de Castro

“The full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all is an essential element in the global response to the HIV epidemic, including in areas of prevention, treatment, care, and support.” This excerpt was taken from the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS: Intensifying our efforts to eliminate HIV/AIDS, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly on June 10, 2011.

According to the World Health Organization, as of 2013, Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV continues to be a major public health issue, having claimed more than 36 million lives so far. There were approximately 35.3 million people living with HIV in 2012. An estimated 0.8 percent of adults aged 15 to 49 worldwide are living with HIV, although the burden of the epidemic continues to vary considerably bet-ween countries and regions. Sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected region, with nearly one in every 20 adults living with HIV. Sixty-nine percent of all persons living with HIV are living in this region.

According to the Global Health Conservatory, HIV infection is usually diagnosed through blood tests detecting the presence or absence of HIV anti-bodies.

There is no cure for HIV infection. However, effective treatment with antiretroviral drugs can control the virus so that people with HIV can live healthy and productive lives. In 2012, more than 9.7 million people living with HIV were receiving antiretroviral therapy in low and middle-income countries.

MDG Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS

Millennium Development Goal 6, target 7 is to halt by 2015 and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, indicated by condom use rate as a mode of contraception.

Based on the 2012 statistics released by the National Statistical Coordination Board, the Cordillera still has a long way to go in order to meet the 100 percent target on condom use, with only 54.9 percent achievement in 2009 from a baseline of 38.5 percent in 1990.

Philippines, Baguio setting

Global AIDS said the Philippines now is one of only two countries in Asia and one of seven countries worldwide where the number of new HIV cases has increased by over 25 percent from 2001 to 2009.

From 2000 to 2013, the trend of HIV/AIDs cases in the Philippines is that in 2000, there is one case every three days; one case a day in 2007; 2010, four cases a day; 2011, seven cases a day; 2012, nine cases; and in 2013, one case every two hours.

In Baguio City, as of the first quarter of 2014, the registry of the Reproductive Health and Wellness Center of the City Health Services Office headed by Dr. Celia Flor Brillantes has 61 confirmed cases where 46 are males and 15 females. Out of this number, 19 are overseas Filipino workers, 25 are men having sex with men, five blood donors, two foreigners, three wives of persons living with AIDS, four sexually active females, and three sexually active males.

Last year marked one of the highest surges in cases, when the number rose to eight cases, or 300 percent compared to 2012’s two cases.

Six of the cases involved MSM and two involved “straight” males, according to the CHSO. This is the second time Baguio reached this number of new cases. The first was in 2011 when the city recorded eight HIV cases.

The city had six new cases each in 2004 and in 2010, five cases in 2009, four in 2006, and three each in 1997 and 2005. For the rest of years since 1992, the city had only one to two cases.

These HIV cases were recorded through the Integrated Behavior Serological Surveillance System, referred by network members or walk-in clients. Confirmed HIV clients are referred to the treatment hub of the Baguio General Hospital HIV/AIDS core team for further counseling and antiretroviral therapy.

Private sector efforts vs HIV/AIDS

The Baguio Center for Young Adults is a non-government organization that has served the community for the past 29 years with efforts and achievements recognized by national and local entities. It envisions healthy, transformed, and empowered adolescents and youth so they could contribute to the society’s development. Its advocacy is to ensure that young adults have opportunities for self-development where their rights are respected, protected, and fulfilled. BCYA is a package of good practices that are replicable for adolescent health and development.

Among its programs since its organization, BCYA champions adolescent reproductive health where HIV/AIDS prevention is one of its advocacies in schools, universities, communities, and workplaces. It has produced and distributed informational and educational materials to heighten responsible sexual behavior among the youth. It has gone beyond the fear-bound approach on the prevention of adolescent risky behaviors.

It has been recognized that at this stage of heightened curiosity that can lead to dangerous experimentation, adolescents need a place to go should they need a friend and answers to life disturbing questions, as it can get complicated if they do not receive the right intervention.

Misinformation about sexuality and reproductive health as a result of gaps between the youth and adults who are supposed to provide them with information will lead to sexual promiscuity. Studies show that properly informed youth have a better understanding of reproductive health, have responsible sexual behaviors, and are aware of the dangers and consequences of unprotected sex.

BCYA supports the dissemination of information by mobilizing peer volunteer educators. This strategy has a multiplier effect in educating the adolescents so they will adopt healthy behaviors and prevent hazards of unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS, substance use and abuse, and violence.

Further, development and enrichment of training modules on adolescent RH is a building block. Various organizations included the Life Skills Approach in the design of their programs to enable them to deal with the demands and challenges they are confronted with. Adolescent RH deals with thematic concerns that relates to sexuality and fertility management, STI, HIV/AIDS, maternal and newborn child health and nutrition, family planning, nutrition and violence against women.

To further reach out to the youth, the BCYA created its medical arm, the Baguio Teens Healthquarters, which is managed by a licensed medical service provider to deliver quality health services and standardized educational films and materials that focus on adolescent reproductive health as well as HIV/AIDS, STI syndromic management, and referral of cases to the Reproductive Health Wellness Center or CHSO.

It promotes health-seeking behavior among adolescents and creates access to youth friendly services regardless of marital status and gender orientation. Medical services are either for house clients or outreach clients in barangays. This ensures access and provision of quality gender responsive medical services.

Stick to values, one partner

Mayor Mauricio Domogan in interviews emphasized values reformation remains the key to address the HIV-AIDS problem.

He said people should take the HIV-AIDS problem seriously and reform their values and practice discipline by sticking to one partner.

He agreed with the need to hold massive information dissemination. The Social Hygiene Clinic is leading efforts in coordination with the Department of Health.

Challenges

The BCYA strengthens its advocacy in the promotion of a safe and supportive environment to consider adolescent and youth health services, relationship with families, service providers, and other significant adults through partnership with local stakeholders like the Baguio AIDS Watch Council, the CHSO’s RH and Wellness Center, and BGH HIV/AIDS core team.

BCYA aims to have a healthy, empowered, and developed youth who will be future leaders and who will be handling the affairs of our nation. The challenge remains on the provision of opportunities and quality services for adolescents and the youth.

BCYA hopes to have more adolescents and young adults feeling the need to seek and eventually availing of the services in friendly teen centers and clinics.

It further aims to reduce the number of teenage pregnancies, abortion, and cases of STIs/HIV-AIDS, and to have better prepared and equipped teenagers with life skills and emotionally and mentally healthy individuals.

Today, all stakeholders must carry out their responsibility of stabilizing the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 to achieve an AIDS-free generation.

To do this, the government should strengthen efforts on acquiring additional funds to assure health services provided by competent health service providers who have the complete facilities, are given to the youth.

There is a need to improve treatment and to provide antiretroviral drugs, which are used in the management of HIV/AIDS and in an attempt to control HIV infection.

Education campaign to protect vulnerable children and youth from stigma, discrimination, and gender-based violence on people living with AIDS should be expanded and there should be more and accessible programs for the vulnerable sector, which include commercial sex workers, men having sex with men, and individuals addicted to prohibited drugs.

The country should be able to realize the goal of providing universal health care, which we believe could be achieved through an integrated health care system, which is the ability of the government to provide a package of accessible health interventions and services to all – encompassing the youth, men and women, and children.
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Informatics Institute
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Medline International Training Institute Baguio
National Economic and Development Authority
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Baguio Central University
Congressman Ronald M. Cosalan
Department of Agriculture – CAR
Department of Education – CAR
Department of Health – CAR
Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan
MMS Development Training Center Corporation
Municipality of La Trinidad
National Grid Corporation of the Philippines
Philex Mining Corporation
Pines City Colleges
SiTEL
Sutherland
University of the Philippines

Ahead Tutorial and Review
Baguio Memorial Chapels Inc.
BCSAT
Benguet Electric Cooperative Inc.
Benguet State University
BSBT College Inc.
Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources – CAR
Commission on Higher Education – CAR
Congressman Nicasio M. Aliping Jr.
Cordillera School of Digital Arts
Department of Environment and Natural Resources – CAR
Department of Trade and Industry – CAR
Dreamforce Review and Training Center
Fabulo Beauty and Image Salon
Far East Pacific Commercial
Filipino–Japanese Foundation of Northern Luzon, Inc.
Ganza and Solibao Restaurants
Governor Nestor B. Fongwan
John Hay Management Corporation
La Funeraria Paz, Inc.
Maybank
Mother Earth Deli Basket
Nagomi Spa
NARDA’S / WINACA Eco Cultural Village
NIIT Baguio
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Montessori
Pag–IBIG / HDMF
Philippine Information Agency – CAR
Philippine National Police – Police Regional Office – COR
Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Benguet
STI College Baguio
The Manor

 



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