April 14, 2024

An advocacy group providing life-saving assistance to people living with human immunodeficiency virus (PLHIV) launched a program that aims to break the discrimination and stigma attached to HIV in government agencies.

Project Red Ribbon Director Ico Rodulfo Johnson said their group wanted government agencies to have a safe, working environment, and a safe space where people can talk about HIV as it affects not only the at-risk population but also every member of the society.

“By bringing the HIV services to go-vernment agencies, they will be made aware of the services of the Department of Health and will witness and feel the services so they can easily talk about HIV more freely, basically to normalize a conversation,” he said.

Project Red Ribbon provides HIV awareness, prevention, testing, treatment, care and support services to improve the quality of life of PLHIV.

DOH Asec. Beverly Ho encouraged everyone to get tested for HIV.

HIV testing, anti-retroviral therapies (ART) for PLHIVs, and pre-exposure prophylaxis medicines are provided free at social hygiene clinics and some treatment centers in local government units. 

“It is important where they are able to access medicines. There must be correct counseling and they are monitored because there are times when there are side effects, so they can be helped by their healthcare provider how to adjust, if change of medicines is needed,” Ho said.

She added the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation also has a benefit package annually for PLHIV.

Philippine Information Agency Director-General Ramon Cualoping III said the HIV situation could be caused by lack of discipline among people or lack of awareness on ways to mitigate the spread of the virus.

“So, here lies the role and challenge of the agency. Supposedly we are proud to say we have the largest footprint in the communications instrumentality of the Philippines, hence, it is our role to help spread awareness, disseminate the right information, to dismiss disinformation,” he said.

In January, the DOH HIV and ART registry logged 1,299 new cases enrolled to the treatment.

Of the total cases, about 644 or 50 percent are 25 to 34 years old; 410 or 32 percent are 15 to 24 years old; 209 or 16 percent are 35 to 49 years old; 32 or two percent are 50 years old and above; and four are less than 15 years old.

From 1983 to present, a total of 112,028 HIV cases have been recorded nationwide.– PNA