Sunday, April 18, 2010

Philippines AIDS Summit- Call to Action for Broad based Responses for HIV/AIDS by Leaders

An AIDS Summit held in Manila Philippines identified the following key agendas for the next three years: strengthen policy and governance; increasing investments to scale up responses; sustain capacity of resources to deliver services; intensifying scale up of coverage to reach most at risk population; evidence based programming and decision making.

The AIDS Summit was held in Manila Philippines on 12 April 2010, organized by the Philippine National AIS Council an attached agency of the Department of Health The Summit was attended by several government agencies, civil society organizations, positive communities, and donor agencies. The Summit was originally proposed by the Catholic groups challenging the government for a face to face debate on HIV prevention sans condom promotion and condom use. The call for a Summit by the Catholic group was triggered by a massive condom distribution activity led by the Department of Health during Valentine's celebration in February and in the succeeding months as part of mobilizing civil society organizations for condom promotion to populations as risk, plus the fact that there is an increasing number of HIV cases among men who have sex with men.

The Summit was a venue and opportunity for the positive community to raise urgent issues and concerns affecting their lives particularly on ARV and OI treatment. The country at the moment is heavily dependent on external sources where 67 percent of funds come from donors like Global Fund, USAID, World Ban, ADB, etc. Domestic source is only 20 percent while private sector contributes only 13 percent.

Currently, ARV is provided for free by the Global Fund to more than 800 Filipinos living with HIV. The Department of Health assured the positive community that ARVs will be provided to all those in need of the treatment until year 2012 and beyond. A concrete treatment investment plan is demanded by the leaders of positive community to make sure that the government will be true to what it had committed.

The Department of Health is now faced with more challenges posed by its partners Two decades in addressing the epidemic, and yet there is nothing different in the approaches and strategies utilized by key stakeholders .For one, policy area should be strengthened and harmonized to address HIV and IDU harm reduction activities. The current law of the country on drug use negates IDU and HIV activities. A person caught with needle and syringe may be apprehended and jailed for having in possession injecting equipment.

Most importantly, Mr Mario Taguiwalo, a consultant and expert on strategic planning and health reforms said that though the country is a low prevalence country with a low number of cases, described the epidemic as rapidly growing. He also cautioned the government and all the stakeholders that the current effort is not enough and given the kind of status and the approaches utilized , the country may have a bigger problem in the near future.

With this word from a Filipino expert, the positive community, particularly Pinoy Plus Association is ready to sit down with the government to discuss, assess, thoroughly develop meaningful approaches to stop further spread of the virus and mitigate the impact on those who are already infected and to the over all economy of the country.

Jerico Paterno
Pinoy Plus Association

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Davao SP Says “YES” to Women's Health Care Clinic Ordinance

Fourteen (14) incumbent legislators of the City Council of Davao gave their overwhelming support to City Ordinance No. 335-10, otherwise known as the Women's Health Care Clinic Ordinance of Davao City, as they voted “yes” during a session at the Sagguniang Panlungsod plenary hall last January 12, 2010 which was presided over by a woman vice-mayor, namely Hon. Sara Duterte.

Through the staunch efforts of its major proponent, Hon. Angela Librado-Trinidad, an ordinance that provides a comprehensive reproductive health service for the people of Davao has finally came to fruition despite the strong opposition from some segments of the local Catholic hierarchy. This initiative has been pushed for the last five (5) years in the city council. The ordinance is part of the commitment of the local government of Davao City to adopt a reproductive health care approach at all levels of health care delivery which integrates many issues not previously considered in population, such as, sexuality, reproductive tract infections, gender power relations, domestic violence and shall not be limited to family planning and child bearing only.

The legislative measure outlines the mechanisms for the operation of a clinic that will provide affordable, accessible and accurate reproductive health information and services to the people especially women and children. One of its guiding principles says, “The law must protect the sexual and reproductive health of men no less than that of women, but because women bear the burden of gestation and their lives and health are more at stake in pregnancy and childbirth than those of men, women are more centrally concerned than men in legal protection and promotion of reproductive health.”

Among those who believed in the spirit and letter of the ordinance were Honorables Bangoy, Monteverde, Abellera, Ortiz, Cabling, Librado, Duterte, Sudagar, Bonguyan, Mahipus, Bello, Villafuerte, Acosta and Dayanghirang. Councilors Militar, Apostol and Baluran expressed their abstention while Councilors Braga, Lavina and Reta persistently voted against the ordinance.

The community of non-government organizations, grassroots women's association and people's organizations through the leadership of Lyda Canson of the Reproductive Health Network-Davao extended their gratitude to the councilors who heard the woes of many women and children of Davao through their positive endorsement of the ordinance. She also thanked all the people behind the organizations who did not waver in their campaign for women's health namely the RH Network, Catholics for Reproductive Health Speak Out Movement, and the Women and Children Coordinating Body. “This is a good start for 2010. After years of struggle, the city council finally heard the lamentations of women. In behalf of the women, I thank the city council of Davao for taking a bold step to protect the interest of the marginalized – our women and children,” she said.

This ordinance is long overdue. Finally, the women and children of Davao obtained a policy support that will promote and protect their reproductive health. May the creation of a women's health clinic in the city help reduce maternal mortality, unwanted pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections, among others. Through this, the women in our communities may look forward for a substantial development in the City of Davao.-#-

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Cairo to Calatrava

Last Saturday, the tabloid Bulgar carried this most sordid headline: “4 Anak Nilunod ni Mommy” (4 Children Drowned by Mommy).

I’ll give a brief summary of what happened, omitting the names of the people involved. A 35-year-old woman told her husband she was taking her four children, aged 12, 6, 5 and 6 months, to the river. Two hours later, she returned alone and told her husband she had drowned all the children. The husband rushed to the river but was too late to save the children.

The woman said she had drowned the children because of poverty. Reading about the incident, I realized poverty is so much more graphic when it’s described in Tagalog: “wala na siyang maipakain”—she could not feed them anymore.

I’m going to return to this incident toward the end of my column, but I want to be very clear here that I’m not zeroing in on Calatrava. It could have been any other town in the Philippines, or some other country. My column title, “Cairo to Calatrava,” gives a broader context in which such tragedies happen.


By Michael Tan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:52:00 09/09/2009

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

RH Bill Infomercial

We urge our legislators to pass the the Reproductive Health Bill this year. The link below shows why we need a comprehensive RH program here in the Philippines.

http://likhaancente rforwomenshealth .blogspot. com

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

MSMs and transgender tackle HIV-AIDS issue

HIV infections are on the rise in the Philippines, with 85 new infections registered in May 2009 alone. This is the highest reported in a month, and brings the total for 2009 (January to May) to 322. Most of these cases (88%) were men, with the 20-24 year age group reporting the most cases (29%). Fifty-seven percent of the reported cases came from the National Capital Region (NCR). All cases reported sexual contact as the mode of HIV transmission, with homosexual contact (36%) as predominant.

The other populations at risk from HIV-AIDS include female sex workers and their male clients and injecting drug users. The vulnerable populations of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), out-of-school youth, and street children are also at high risk, and require comprehensive and targeted programmes as well. In 2007, an estimated 7,490 people were living with HIV, up from the estimated 6,000 in 2002.

All the main ingredients for an epidemic are present in the country. First, HIV transmission through unprotected sex accounts for 89% of reported cases. Second, condom use among the most at-risk populations remains below the universal access target of 90%.

Given this situation, the Government of the Philippines and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched a three-year programme entitled “Promoting Leadership and Mitigating the Negative Impacts of HIV and AIDS on Human Development.” Its first project is the 1st National Conference on HIV-AIDS by Men Who Have Sex with Men (MSM) and Transgender Filipinos, being held July 23-24 at Greenhills Elan Hotel.

This project will define the profile of MSM and transgender Filipinos as well as their changing behaviors. It will also map and assess existing programs, and recommend advocacy strategies and cost. It will further pilot-test these strategies to scale up the national MSM response, including involvement in shaping of policy.

Renaud Meyer, the Country Director of UNDP, said: “This programme demonstrates UNDP’s commitment to contribute to the global response to combat AIDS, which is embodied in Goal 6 of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – to reverse and halt the spread of HIV-AIDS and other diseases. Our overall goal is to support improved human development outcomes and contribute to the attainment of the goals of the Philippines’ national AIDS response through comprehensive leadership programmes. This project – which aims to develop the capacity of MSMs and transgender Filipinos as well as their organizations – is a significant step in this direction.”

The national conference fulfills two of the five components of the UNDP programme. These are to provide strategic information and community leadership among MSM and transgender Filipinos, as well as provide knowledge, community, and advocacy to promote a deeper understanding of HIV and AIDS. The three other components of the programme are:

*Leadership for effective and sustained responses to HIV and AIDS;
*Strengthening institutional capacities and partnerships on HIV and migration; and
*Mitigating the economic and psycho-social impacts of HIV and AIDS.

For this programme, the UNDP is working closely with relevant Government agencies such as the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), TLF Sexuality, Health and Rights Educators Collective, Inc. (TLF SHARE), Health Action Information Network (HAIN), and the Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC).

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Monday, August 03, 2009

Philippines: Contraceptives As Life-savers

Mina was too poor to buy pills and too powerless to say no to her husband whenever he came home drunk. "I would always give in," she said. "Otherwise, he might have created a scene and disturbed my employer, Ate Cris, who took us all in, including my son, when I applied as her helper."

Mina eventually became pregnant but prioritised the schooling of her son over prenatal care. She got access to health care only in her seventh month and only when a neighbour referred her to the nearby Community Health Care Clinic of the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines. "The medical personnel there were really alarmed when they saw me," recalled Mina.

By Perla Aragon-Choudhury, Womens Feature Service

Philippines: Contraceptives As Life-savers

Monday, July 27, 2009

Spoof and Tragedy

The president is on time. Her purple gown is big and wraps her shoulders like a protective gear. She is flanked by sunglass-sporting escorts and piña-clad lawmakers. The carpet is red and waiting.

As she walks to take her place in front of the giant Philippine flag, the president’s body language tells the audience she is upbeat. She waves like a movie star, nodding in all directions as if she knew everybody in sight. She is giggly like the colegiala she once was, fixing her hair compulsively and tilting her head just a little too much that you wonder whether her neck isn’t aching already.

She calls the attention of the Senate president for being too busy hitting the key pads of his cellular phone. He mumbles something about going after his lost pre-paid credits and wanting to download videos into his phone. And then the president starts addressing the nation, telling her countrymen that it is an important junction in history— Michael Jackson is dead and Santino has spoken to Bro.

It was a typical mock Sona, this one that took place at the Bahay Alumni at the University of the Philippines last Wednesday. The President is portrayed as the vain, shallow, glory-seeking, and truth-selective chief executive who bothers with trivial details and offers simplistic fixes to complex national issues. To a certain point, this mock exercise differs little from all the other imitations of the event that takes place today at the Batasan. Numerous other groups are out there to deliver their own versions of the president’s speech. The general idea is to ridicule the chief executive for her misplaced priorities and her doublespeak.

But this event stops being one of many mock Sonas when, toward the middle of the address, the president—the actor playing the role of Gloria Arroyo, that is—is confronted by her conscience. She is asked why there is no mention at all of the government’s reproductive health program in her speech. But it’s not an urgent issue, the president says. It’s the economy that matters. Women in dasters protest. This is just as urgent. And so this Sona—The State-of-The-Nanay Address—takes a different turn.

Veiled women, harbingers of sad stories, rattle off bleak figures for the president’s consumption. More than four thousand women, eleven in a day, die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related, but otherwise preventable causes. Thirty percent of pregnancies occur in minors. An estimated 400 thousand women undergo abortions every year. Sixty percent of married women do not anymore want to increase the number of their children, if only the knowledge and the service were available to them.

These do not include yet the more comprehensive—and disheartening—findings of international agency Save the Children Inc. in its State of Filipino Mothers Index 2008. Nor does it include the findings of the Social Weather Stations in October 2008 that 76 percent of Filipinos want family planning education in schools and 71 percent favor the passage of the reproductive health bill.

The figures are many and overwhelming but they point to the same message: something is wrong. Despite the Philippines’ impressive ranking in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report (the country is the best performing among all developing nations), Filipino women, specifically the poor and uneducated, are held hostage by poverty and lack of access to information that would enable them to give their children a better quality of life—and themselves enough health protection and power to determine their living conditions.

Now comes the reproductive health bill, also known as the Reproductive Health and Population Development Act of 2008, pending in both houses of Congress. The bill seeks to institutionalize the public’s access to family planning information and tools. It also paves the way for age-appropriate reproductive health education among children and adolescents. The bill’s advocates claim they have more than enough signatures from lawmakers to pass the bill and put it on the President’s table. But the chances of the bill ever making it to Malacañang are getting dimmer by the day.

For one, President Arroyo—the real one—has not shown any interest in seeing to it that the bill is enacted. Before the United Nations General Assembly one day in September 2005, during evaluations of member-nations’ progress in attaining Millennium Development Goals (Goal 5 pertains to bringing down the rate of maternal mortality), Mrs. Arroyo is reported to have said: “We expect the United Nations to respect the deep Catholicism of the vast majority of the Filipino people.” Four years, and it doesn’t seem as though the President is changing her mind. Whether it’s religious conviction or political expediency masquerading as religious conviction, she doesn’t seem inclined to sign the bill when it makes it to her desk. But at least she can do nothing and let it lapse.

At this point, however, there is still something she can do. She can certify the bill as urgent and require Congress, whose sessions begin anew today, to pass it within 20 session days.

That’s also the suggestion of the “konsyensya” to the Arroyo impostor during the mock Sona. Towards the end of the address, the President “sees the light” and heeds the suggestion. Is that a realistic expectation or a far-fetched dream? Reproductive health advocates are worried, especially since House Speaker Prospero Nograles has released a list of his priority measures which conspicuously does NOT include RH bill.

Admittedly, the timing is off. Elections are coming in less than a year and our lawmakers would not dare fall out of the graces of the Catholic Church hierarchy lest their chances (or the chances of their wives, children, brothers or sisters in case they are now on their last term) be compromised. Tragically, religious organizations can still make or break a politician these days. The public and the politicians themselves are not without fault for preserving this dynamo.

These lawmakers elected to represent the people conveniently set aside their constituents’ wishes for political expediency. (Of course I am talking about those who secretly support the bill but are too cowardly to do it publicly. We respect the views of those staunchly against it on the basis of their legitimate moral beliefs.)

Despite this, reproductive health advocates are psyched to fight it out these next few weeks. Anybody who believes that putting in place a national reproductive health program is less important than ramming Charter change down our throats these days is either stupid or does not really love his country.

Article by Adelle Chua, Manila Standard Today, July 27, 2009

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