May 28, 2024

Members of the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) Watch Council (AWAC) will be spearheading the annual AIDS Candlelight Memorial observance on May 10 in Baguio City.

The theme for this year’s AIDS Candlelight Memorial is “Put people first: Kandila ng pagkalinga, liwanag ng pag-asa,” in remembrance of all those who have been affected by the AIDS pandemic.

Activities include a press conference to be spearheaded by the Philippine Information Agency-Cordillera with livestream broadcast on the social media pages of the agency and the Baguio City Public Information Office.

A short program will follow at 5 p.m. at the Burnham Park Lake with the candle lighting of the AIDS ribbon symbol which will be floated over the lake surrounded by boats to be hired by bars and night society of entertainment establishments also holding candle lights.

Every May since 1983, the AIDS Candlelight Memorial has been conducted internationally to raise awareness on the sexually-transmitted disease caused by Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

There are 187 active HIV/AIDS patients undergoing treatments in the region from 2018 to April 30 this year based on the records of the Reproductive Health and Wellness Center (RHWC) under the Department of Health-Cordillera.

The RHWC data also recorded nine patients discontinued their treatments and two mortalities for the same period for a total of 198 detected cases.

Nurse Gayhope Alangsab of the City Health Services Office said the RHWC is now the repository of HIV/AIDS data since its establishment in 2018 for a unified reporting and monitoring of cases in the region.

Of the total, 142 are residents of the region while 56 are from other places. 

Majority or 191 of the cases are male while seven are female.

“Our campaign is to seek undetected persons living with HIV through screening and undergo continued treatment if the test turns positive of the disease,” CHSO Acting Head Celia Brillantes said.

She said efforts are extended to persuade the key and vulnerable population to be tested, properly diagnosed, and enrolled in antiretroviral treatment (ART) at a rate of 95 percent, so as to render the virus non-transmissible. 

There are seven accredited treatment hubs in the region offering free services for HIV/AIDS screening and treatment after the DOH declared HIV as a national emergency in 2017. 

These are the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center HIV/AIDS Core Team Balai Treatment Hub; CHSO-Reproductive Health and Wellness Center Avong Treatment Hub; Notre Dame de Chartres St. Aloysius Treatment Hub; Benguet General Hospital Kandili Treatment Hub; La Paz Satellite Treatment Hub Balay Ti Namnama in Abra; Far North Luzon General Hospital Safe Zone Treatment Hub in Apayao; and the most recent accredited treatment hub, Kalinga Provincial Hospital. 

Treatment hubs facilitate in-patient and out-patient prevention, treatment, care and support services to people living with HIV including but not limited to ART, HIV testing services, clinical management, patient monitoring, and other care and support services.

AIDS is a chro-nic, potentially life-threatening condition caused by HIV damaging the immune system’s ability to fight infection and diseases. 

HIV is a sexually transmitted infection and can also be spread by contact with infected blood or from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breast-feeding. – Jessa Mardy Samidan