February 1, 2023
SUPPORTING HIV/AIDS PREVENTION CAMPAIGN — To commemorate World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, United States Ambassador MaryKay Carlson led the symbolic handover of 86,000 HIV viral load testing cartridges to the Department of Health with the PEPFAR Philippines Interagency in the presence of Sen. Risa Hontiveros, Manila City Councilor for Health Dr. Louisito Chua, DOH Usec. Carolina Vidal-Taiño, representatives of the Metro Manila Center for Health Development, and members of people living with HIV community. — U.S. Embassy photo

The city government of Baguio continues to encourage residents especially those who are susceptible to contracting HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections to have themselves tested and submit to regular monitoring to help in preventing further transmission of the disease in the city.
Assistant City Health and Services Officer Celia Brillantes said free HIV testing and counseling are available in onsite and offsite centers in the city to cater to those who want or need to get tested.
Community-based testing andscreening are also offered by partner organizations that make rounds in the barangays and do referrals to the CHSO when necessary.
Testing and counseling can also be availed of in social hygiene clinics and reproductive health centers which are open every day to cater to patients.
Since 1994, the Cordillera recorded 883 cases of HIV/AIDS, and 544 of which are recorded in Baguio City.
Brillantes said Baguio was also having an average of two to three cases a month last year, but from January to September this year alone, 65 cases have already been recorded or an average of seven cases a month.
She said there may be other cases that have not been recorded so the number could be higher.
Brillantes said the city continues raising HIV/AIDS awareness for the public to be aware of the perils and how not to contract the disease, which while it can be treated, still does not have a cure.
They also focus on the youth in the awareness drive to help them become mature and responsible young adults.
“We hope this will no longer increase further. We are also alarmed since this is during the pandemic where while we were dealing with increasing Covid-19 cases, HIV cases also increased. So we really need to raise awareness to stop transmission,” Brillantes said.
The CHSO advocates have also committed to continue the fight to end the global concern on HIV/AIDS and stop the stigma and discrimination suffered by people living with the disease.
Saying HIV/AIDS targets weak and vulnerable groups in the society and magnifies inequality, Councilor Isabelo Cosalan Jr. urged the public to help normalize HIV/AIDS as a subject matter that should be discussed openly.
“We must take decisive and coordinated steps to put an end to this. Global solidarity and awareness are key factors in ending HIV/AIDS,” said Cosalan who represented Mayor Benjamin Magalong during the city’s observance of the World AIDS Day on Dec. 2.
Cosalan said the fight to raise awareness and support to people living with HIV/AIDS has never and will never stop, assuring the city government’s conviction is stronger and remains essential against the disease that has taken millions of lives and caused horrible and untold pain, stigma and discrimination.
He added normalizing HIV/AIDS discussions also provides opportunities to correct misconceptions and helps others learn more about HIV/AIDS.
“The stigma and discrimination affect the emotional well-being and mental health of people living with HIV/AIDS, including their respective families. They often internalize the stigma they experience and begin to develop a negative self-image.
They may fear they will be discriminated against or judged negatively if their HIV status is revealed. This should end. No one should get sick and die just because they are uninformed or marginalized. No one should go through this thinking that they are alone,” the councilor said.
He added the city government strongly commits to providing needed assistance and support for the cause, as the mayor assured every available government resource of the city shall be used to contribute in ending HIV/AIDS.
Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda also urged ending the stigma attached to people living with HIV/AIDS and to those who are working in the entertainment business.
“Sana malinis natin ito. Sana kahit sabihin nyo na kayo ay nagtatrabaho sa entertainment business, dapat ang tingin ng tao sa inyo ay hindi mas mababa sa ordinaryong tao. This is what we want to accomplish but this can only be done kung kayo mismo ay magpapakita that you deserve the respect we are supposed to give you. Dapat respetado kayo sa inyong trabaho at sumusunod kayo sa mga patakaran para we will see to it you are respected and provided the dignity which we all deserve as human beings,” Tabanda said. – Hanna C. Lacsamana

AWARENESS IS THE KEY — The city government, together with health advocates and workers in the night entertainment industry, continues on promoting awareness on HIV/AIDS and  calls for ending the stigma suffered by people living with AIDS as Baguio joins the commemoration of World AIDS Day on Dec. 2. — Hanna Lacsamana