The record of new HIV incidence made news last July 2014 when the number reached 585, the highest incidence since 1984. But those who are working in the health sectors and non-government organizations knew that the number will not get any better. “The record of new HIV incidence will not get lower, but it’ll just worsen,” says Mr. Rodel Navarra, Chief Operating Officer of Positive Action Foundation Philippines, Inc. (PAFPI). And true enough, the number of new cases last June 2015, one year after, reached an extremely alarming level at 772 new HIV cases. That’s a big jump from the 17 new HIV incidence per day in 2014 to 22 new HIV incidence in 2015.
Reports from the HIV / AIDS Registry of the Department of Health (DOH) also highlight the staggering increase is that 8% or 64 cases out of 772 belong to the sector of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), which comprise 14% out of the total number since the data was first recorded in 1984. Most incidence are males and only 2% are females, while 65% of the total OFWs diagnosed with HIV belong to the age group of 25-34.
“The high number of HIV incidence among the OFWs call for an intensified HIV education through the Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar (PDOS), and this need was further discussed in the dissemination and partnership forum on the HIV information and education drive among OFWs,” Navarra says. Navarra was referring to the ‘Dissemination and Partnership Forum and Evaluation of the HIV and AIDS Education & Counseling Services among OFWs’ last June 26, 2015. The forum that was held at Bayview Park Hotel, Ermita, Manila cited several highlights, especially on the HIV assessment and evaluation program or the pre and post counseling, and the provision of group information and education in the diagnostic clinics and other PDOS partner agencies.
He cites the diagnostic clinics like St Rita Medical and Diagnostic Clinics, Medway Healthcare, Inc., CBZ Medical Clinic and El Roi Medical & Diagnostic Center, Inc., and placement agencies like Overseas Placement Association of the Philippines (OPAP), ALBARAKA, Technomar Crew Management Corporation, Jebsens Maritime Inc, Sea Power Shipping Enterprises, Inc, and Associated Marine Officers and Seafarers Union of the Philippines (AMOSUP) are partners that help PAFPI reach out a large number of departing OFWs. “The HIV Pre and Post Test Counseling among selected OFW clinics to assess and evaluate our program, validation activities were conducted.”
“Our close work and coordination with government agencies like Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), National AIDS and STI Prevention and Control Program (NASPCP), and Health Facilities and Services Regulatory Board (HFSRB) of DoH also help us implement PDOS seamlessly.”
“We are continuously working with partner agencies like diagnostic centers, employment placement agencies and various government agencies. We want to ensure that those who are preparing to work abroad perfectly understand the risks of HIV,” he explains. He further add that through PDOS, not only that OFWs will know how to avoid HIV infection, but they are also oriented on what to do in case they contracted the virus.
Another highlight of the forum is the presentation of Comparative Evaluation of HIV and AIDS Education for Filipino Seafarers (2013 – 2015) by Laufred I. Hernandez, MM, MA, Associate Professor of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of the Philippines, Manila.
Aside from Navarra, Celestino Ramirez (Vice President and Training Director of PAFPI), the forum was also attended by Dr. Jose Tomas Octavio of the Policy & Program Development Office (PPDO) PDOS in-charge of OWWA, Rench Chanliongco of HEPO III of PNAC-DOH, and Rosendo P. Sualog (Medical Specialist III of DOH-HFSRB). Representatives from different diagnostic clinics like Helen Alvarez of Medical Technologies of CBZ Clinic, Ramon Ponce of Technomar Crew Mgt., Julius Valdez of El Roi Medical Clinic, Ma. Joriza Bonbon of Med Tech of El Roi, Medical Specialist I Dr. Amelita Manalang of DSWD NCR, Gregorio C. Biares Jr of AMOSUP’s Legal Dept., Director Azizza T. Salim of OPAP, and Leslie A. Tolentino of ACHIEVE, Inc. also graced the event.
“With support from Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA, Pasasalamat Fund and AusAID, we had been continuously providing HIV/AIDS education during PDOS since 2000,” he happily shares.