HIV TESTING AT THE SENATE: Senate Committee Chair for Health and Demography Senator Risa Hontiveros is being readied by Kahel Jay Sta. Maria, a LoveYourself Volunteer, for an HIV test during the HIV Testing Day at the Senate on Tuesday morning (29 November 2016) in creating awareness towards the disease.
(Pasay City). Underscoring the importance of the early detection of HIV for the commemoration of World AIDS Day, LoveYourself in collaboration with the Pasay City Social Hygiene Clinic conducted an HIV testing campaign at the Senate of the Philippines on 29 November 2016 from 9:00 a.m.-5:00p.m.
This is in response to the initiative of the Office of the Senator Risa Hontiveros being the Senate Committee Chairperson on Health and Demography, who is also thrusting for the amendments of the Republic Act No. 8504 or also known as “Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998.”
According to Sen. Hontiveros, the HIV testing day at the Senate aims to encourage more people to look at HIV test as a regular diagnostic tool, such as, blood pressure check-up and urinalysis, to know one’s health status and live a healthy lifestyle.
“An HIV test could spell difference between life and death,” relayed Sen. Hontiveros, while emphasizing the need for such a procedure to generate information that would support a progressive, human-rights-based and gender sensitive policy and programs to fight the spread of HIV and AIDS in the country.
Sen. Hontiveros emphasized that Filipinos can avail free and confidential HIV test from any social hygiene clinics and community centers like LoveYourself.
Senator Risa Hontiveros (center) together with Senate Secretary Atty. Lutgardo B. Barbo posed with the LoveYourself Volunteers led by Executive Director Ronivin G. Pagtakhan (5th from left).
Allaying fears to those who wanted to undergo an HIV test, the Senator quickly responded that lack of awareness, strong stigmatization and discrimination are among the factors that scare people, particularly the key populations, to avail of the free health service offered by the government.
As an encouragement, Sen. Hontiveros underlines “Bawasan o tanggalin natin totally ang diskriminasyon [to key affected populations] at mas itaas natin yung health consciousness at solidarity sa isa’t-isa, [and enrich] moral support and mutual support sa paghahanap natin ng isang healthy lifestyle.”
LoveYourself Executive Director Ronivin G. Pagtakhan said “More than offering a free and confidential HIV screening, LoveYouself is also aggressive in equipping its clients with proper and non-discriminatory education to ensure positive behavioral change to further prevent the spread of HIV.”
Moreover, while HIV has been decreasing steadily all over the world, LoveYourself Senior Director Christopher M. Lagman informed that “the Philippines today is the only country whose numbers are not only increasing, but are increasing exponentially.”
Based on the latest DOH data covering the period July-October 2016, there were 3,112 newly diagnosed people living with HIV, in which the National Capital Region posted an alarming rate of 41% followed by Region 4A (Calabarzon) at 15%. Also, the current data showed that young males ages 15-24 and MSMs have a high infection rate.
This is the reason why LoveYourself also supports the amendments to the Republic Act No. 8504, including the adjustment on the range of age, particularly allowing young people to access HIV as a life-saving procedure.
The Senate HIV testing day draw 72 clients in which none has been diagnosed to be living with HIV.
Last Sunday alone (27 November), the advocacy group has tested 211 individuals to know their HIV status during its free, anonymous and fast community-based screening dubbed as LoveYourself Incognito 2.0 at the Victoria Court Malate in Manila. Of the total participants, the organization has diagnosed 13 individuals to be living with HIV and immediately referred to the organization’s HIV treatment program.
LoveYourself is a local non-government organization providing free and confidential HIV testing, counseling, education, and recently treatment. It has currently two clinics: LoveYourself Anglo in Shaw near Starmall and LoveYourself Uni in Taft-Gil Puyat near the LRT station. These clinics are open on Wednesdays-Saturdays (12:00nn-7:00p.m.) and Sundays (9:00a.m.-2:00p.m.).
For more details on LoveYourself’s services, individuals may visit the group’s official website at http://www.loveyourself.ph or follow and like its social media channels: Facebook- @loveyourself.ph, Twitter- @loveyourselfph, and Instagram- @loveyourself.ph.