Success Story Championing Health Equity: The Advocacy and Institutionalize for Free Access to Antiretroviral Medication in the Philippines by Positive Action Foundation Philippines, Inc.

Introduction: Since its inception in 1996, the Positive Action Foundation Philippines, Inc. (PAFPI), under the leadership of Joshua Formentera, has been at the forefront of advocating for the rights and welfare of Filipinos living with HIV/AIDS. One of the pivotal initiatives spearheaded by PAFPI is the advocacy for free access to Antiretroviral Medication (ARV) for all individuals affected by HIV in the Philippines. This report explores the journey of PAFPI in championing this cause and its impact on the Filipino HIV/AIDS community.  In the Philippines, the fight against HIV/AIDS has been ongoing for decades, with various organizations and stakeholders striving to address the challenges posed by this epidemic. In 1996 one significant hurdle has been ensuring access to life-saving Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) for all Filipinos living with HIV. Recognizing this critical need, Positive Action Foundation Philippines Incorporated led by Joshua T. Formentera have taken bold steps to advocate for the free access to ART medications, aiming to enhance healthcare equity and improve the quality of life for those affected by HIV/AIDS in the country because savings people live a true measure of morality. PAFPI’s strongly believed the development of antiretroviral therapy is not only the history of scientific advancement: it is the result of the passionate alliance towards a common goal between researchers, doctors and nurses, pharmaceutical industries, regulators, public health official and the community of HIV-infected patients, which rather unique in the history of medicine. The development of antiretroviral therapy is not only the history of scientific advancements: In addition, the rapid and progressive development of antiretroviral therapy has not only proven to be lifesaving for many millions but has been instrumental in unveiling the inequities in access to health between rich and poor countries of the world, including the Philippines. Optimal benefits indeed, are not accessible to all Filipinos living with HIV, with challenges to coverage and a long-term sustainability particularly in the Philippines. It was then, for the first time Joshua Formentera brought the issues and concern of ARV treatment for people with HIV to the Philippine Department of Health through the Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC) then to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), National Drug Formulary (NDF) and lastly the Philippine Congress to address the problems of access to free ARV treatment and providing long term sustainability. After years of the organization’s initiative of advocacy on access to generic ARV treatment, the UNAIDS headed by Dr. Peter Piot and his team acknowledged of our effort and decided to finally visit in our office facilitated by the UNAIDS Philippines to witnessed of PAFPI’s initiative on access to ARV treatment in the Philippines.

Challenges in Accessing Antiretroviral Medication: Access to ART medication remains a pressing issue in the Philippines in the 1990s primarily due to financial constraints and limited healthcare infrastructure dealing with HIV patients. Many individuals living with HIV face significant barriers in obtaining the necessary medications, including high costs, lack of insurance coverage, and geographical distance to healthcare facilities. These challenges not only jeopardize the health and well-being of affected individuals but also hinder efforts to control the spread of HIV within the population.

Founding and Mission: PAFPI was founded in response to the needs of Filipinos living with HIV and AIDS as well as the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Philippines and the lack of comprehensive support services for affected individuals. Under the guidance of Joshua Formentera, PAFPI’s mission has been to empower and uplift the lives of Filipinos living with HIV/AIDS through providing care, support and treatment. advocacy, education, and community-based programs.

Advocacy for Free Access to ARV Medication: At the heart of PAFPI’s advocacy efforts lies the belief that access to ARV medication is a fundamental human right for all individuals living with HIV. Since its inception, PAFPI has been a vocal advocate for policy changes and government interventions to ensure free access to ARV medication for all Filipinos affected by HIV/AIDS. The Positive Action Foundation Philippines, Inc. has utilized various strategies to advance this cause, including:

  1. Community Mobilization: PAFPI has mobilized the HIV/AIDS community and its allies to raise awareness about the importance of ARV treatment and the barriers to access faced by many Filipinos. Through community forums, workshops, and outreach activities, PAFPI has empowered individuals to demand their right to quality healthcare and access to ARV medication.
  2. Public Awareness Campaigns: Positive Action Foundation Philippines led by Joshua Formentera have launched public awareness campaigns to educate the general population about the importance of access to ART medication in combating the HIV epidemic. These campaigns aim to reduce stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS and garner public support for policies that promote equitable access to healthcare services.
  3. Policy Engagement: PAFPI has actively engaged with policymakers, government agencies, and healthcare stakeholders to highlight the importance of free access to ARV medication. Through dialogue, lobbying, and policy briefs, PAFPI has advocated for the inclusion of ARV treatment in government-funded healthcare programs and the removal of financial barriers to access.
  4. Research and Evidence-Based Advocacy: PAFPI conducted research in 2001 entitled Health Seeking Behavior of Filipinos Living with HIV. The result of the research was presented to the very First National Consultative and Consensus Meeting NCCM organized by Positive Action Foundation Philippines Incorporated (PAFPI) supported by the Ford Foundation which was attended and gathered by around 120 individual living with HIV and AIDS for the first time to bring the voices of the Filipinos infected with HIV and AIDS coming from different backgrounds all over the Philippines. Then result of this meeting was brought upon the signing of the Manila Manifesto on Access to ARV treatment and gathered data to support its advocacy efforts, demonstrating the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of ARV treatment in improving health outcomes and reducing transmission rates. By presenting compelling evidence to policymakers and stakeholders, PAFPI has strengthened its case for free access to ARV medication through the regular appropriation budget of the Department of Health from the congress to provide free and accessible ARV treatment and opportunistic Infection to all Filipinos Living with HIV and AIDS according to Article V, Sec. 33 of the Republic Act 11166.
  5. Legal Support: In some cases, PAFPI partnerships with HIV organizations and legal support have provided legal assistance to individuals facing challenges in accessing ART medication due to discrimination and workplace discrimination or bureaucratic hurdles. By offering legal support and advocacy, PAFPI seek to ensure that all Filipinos living with HIV can exercise their right to healthcare without discrimination.

PAFPI’s legacy extends beyond its advocacy for free access to ARV medication. Through its holistic approach to HIV/AIDS care and support, PAFPI has provided hope, empowerment, and solidarity to countless individuals and families affected by the epidemic. Joshua Formentera’s leadership and vision have been instrumental in guiding PAFPI’s advocacy efforts and shaping its impact on the lives of Filipinos living with HIV/AIDS.

Conclusion: The Positive Action Foundation Philippines, Inc., led by Joshua Formentera together with the volunteers of the Organization, has been a beacon of hope and resilience in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the Philippines. Through its unwavering commitment to advocating for free access to ARV medication, PAFPI has transformed lives, empowered communities, and catalyzed positive change in the healthcare landscape. As PAFPI continues its journey, its legacy of advocacy, compassion, and solidarity will continue to inspire future generations in the pursuit of health equity and social justice for all. The advocacy efforts of PAFPI in advocating for free access to ART medication represent a significant step towards achieving health equity for Filipinos living with HIV. By addressing the barriers to treatment access and promoting public awareness, PAFPI have played a crucial role in improving the quality of life for individuals affected by HIV/AIDS in the Philippines. PAFPI learned working way with the government agencies requires careful navigation and collaboration to ensure effective outcomes. Foster strong relationships built on trust and mutual respect. Invest time in getting to know key stakeholders on both sides and understand their perspectives, priorities, and constraints. By adhering to these best practices, government agencies and organization of people living with HIV and AIDS can work together more effectively to address access to free ARV treatment and achieve shared objectives for the benefit of the community.


Moving forward, continued collaboration between the Department of Health, Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC), HIV organizations, International Funding and other government agencies, policymakers, and other stakeholders will be essential to sustain and expand these efforts, ensuring that all Filipinos living with HIV have access to the care and support they need to live healthy and fulfilling lives.