Provincial Government Raise HIV, AIDS Awareness

DAVAO ORIENTAL – In an effort to raise awareness and make further progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS, the Provincial Government has joined the worldwide commemoration of the International Aids Candlelight Memorial.

Barangay Health Workers, representatives from the LGBT community and the youth sector, among others have participated in the event held on May 19 at Honey’s Hotel in the City of Mati, where they lighted candles to remember those who have perished from the disease and to show their support in helping educate the public about how the infection spreads.

Organized by the Provincial Health Office, the event hopes to inform as many people as possible about HIV and AIDS in order to curb the growing incidence of individuals infected with the deadly disease.

From 1984 to present, there have been a total of 50 reported cases of HIV in Davao Oriental, said Dr. Herminigilda B. Nartates, Provincial Health Officer II. In January of this year, one HIV case has been reported. Nartates, however, said that the actual infection rates may actually be higher as most individuals who have been infected choose not to report or subject themselves to HIV testing in the hospital for fear of being ostracized by the society and face discrimination.

Dr. Herminigilda B. Nartates, Provincial Health Officer II

By openly advocating on HIV and AIDs awareness, people behind the campaign hope to stop the prejudice against those who have been infected. “We should help remove the stigma so that people with HIV and AIDS can live normal lives,” said Nartates.

In the province, a HIV-Testing Facility situated at the Davao Oriental Provincial Medical Center (DOPMC) is open to those who want to undergo testing, ensuring the patients absolute confidentiality.  Meanwhile, local support groups and counselors for individuals diagnosed with the disease are encouraging patients to reach out to these specialized groups that effort to positively affect the mental and emotional well-being of HIV and AIDS patients.

The President of the LGBT Community of Mati City delivers message of support to the awareness campaign on HIV and AIDS

HIV (Human Immuno Virus) which could potentially progress to AIDS (Auto Immune Deficiency Syndrome) – the advanced form of the disease – can only be transmitted through sexual contact, pregnancy, blood transfusion, and sharing needles commonly used during drug injection. The disease currently does not have a cure. There are HIV medicines available in the market. However, these medicines don’t cure the disease but only reduce the risk, extend the lives of HIV patients and prevent HIV from advancing to AIDS.

The disease, however, is not spread via air, insect bites, toilet seats, saliva, tears, sweat, sharing of cutlery, or mere touching.

Over the last decade, the trend of HIV and AIDS cases dramatically shifted from the female population, who are mostly sex workers, to males with multiple male partners. Currently in the Philippines, individuals as young as 15-24 years old have also been reported to have contracted the disease.

Provincial Governor’s Office Chief of Staff, Ednar G. Dayaghirang, who represented Governor Nelson L. Dayanghirang, said that lifestyle changes, avoiding risky behaviors, and adhering to prevention measures should be practiced among those populations who are predisposed to getting the infection. “Prevention is the only effective means to help curb spreading the disease,” he said.

Provincial Governor’s Office Chief of Staff, Ednar G. Dayaghirang, who represented Governor Nelson L. Dayanghirang

Among the suggested prevention measures is by practicing the ‘ABCDE’, which stands for abstinence, be faithful, condom use, do not inject drugs, and education.

“Despite the alarming truth, the positive side of all these is that it can be prevented,” Dayanghirang said. He said the campaign has also a strong message, especially to the gay community, that everybody can freely exercise their rights to engage whatever relationship they want but within the bounds of discipline. “If we do that we are not only helping ourselves but we are also helping our community,” he added. By Karen Lou Deloso

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