Let’s Help Revitalize the Baguio AIDS Watch Council

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By Art Tibaldo

Consumer Atbp.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


IN BAGUIO City, we often observe December 1 with a program wearing red ribbon that symbolizes the fight and continuing advocacy against the spread of the dreaded human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). I remember being actively involved with the Baguio AIDS Watch Council (AWAC) led by its founding President Dr. Charles Cheng who effortlessly devoted time and resources to let people understand the importance of prevention and early diagnosis once detected. With his recent demise leaving stalwart advocates like Dra. Celia Brillantes and Dra. Marie Apolinar among the active anti-AIDS crusaders, I encourage volunteers to join the Baguio AIDS Watch Council for a more participative and vigorous campaign that is aimed at protecting the citizenry from AIDS.

HIV-AIDS remains as one of the world's most significant public health challenges, particularly among developing countries. Before she finally succumbed to the dreaded virus, we once interviewed Sarah Jane Salazar who candidly revealed the typical life of a former sex worker who are the most prone to acquire and likely to spread the virus.

According to the World Health Organization, close to 10 million people in 2012 underwent antiretroviral therapy among low- and middle-income countries. The WHO also released a set of normative guidelines and provided support to countries in formulating and implementing policies and programmes to improve and scale up HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services for all people in need.

Other than what I learned from the Baguio AWAC such as the ABCs of AIDS prevention, here are 10 basic facts from WHO that we should know about HIV-AIDS; HIV infects cells of the immune system. Infection results in the progressive deterioration of the immune system, breaking down the body's ability to fend off some infections and other diseases. AIDS (Acquired immune deficiency syndrome) refers to the most advanced stages of HIV infection, defined by the occurrence of any of more than 20 opportunistic infections or related cancers.

HIV can be transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse (vaginal or anal) or oral sex with an infected person; transfusions of contaminated blood; the sharing of contaminated needles, syringes or other sharp instruments; the transmission between a mother and her baby during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding.

More than 35.3 million people are currently living with HIV, and 2.1 million of these are adolescents (10-19 years). All adolescents are vulnerable to HIV due to the physical and emotional transitions, and potentially heightened risk-taking behaviour, inherent to this period of life. The vast majority of people living with HIV are in low- and middle-income countries. An estimated 2.3 million people were newly infected with the virus in 2012 HIV as per WHO records is the world’s leading infectious killer. An estimated 36 million people have died so far and 1.6 million people died of HIV/AIDS in 2012.

In August 2013, the United Nations (UN) expressed alarm over the increasing number of HIV and AIDS cases in the Philippines. Of the 14,025 cases since 1984, 1,289 have become full-blown AIDS and there were 431 new cases of HIV in June, bringing to 2,323 the number of new cases since January 2013 and to 14,025 since the disease was detected in 1984. The head of the Philippine National Aids Council (PNAC) said during the forum with UN officials that the council needs more funds for AIDS prevention through its education and awareness campaign.
There are several ways to prevent HIV transmission. Key ways to prevent HIV transmission is to practice safe sexual behaviors such as using condoms, get tested and treated for sexually transmitted infections including HIV and by avoid injecting drugs. If you must use injections, always use new and disposable needles and syringes and ensure that any blood or blood products that you might need are tested for HIV.
For added information, you can check out the website initiated by the group of Dra. Celia Brillantes atwww.bonjing.org,ph and sign in to join the discussion forum. The site’s aim is to provide information on sexual and reproductive health of young people through the electronic inquiry (internet) in the city of Baguio. Specifically, the website’s objective is to further provide a venue for young people’s expression of their sexual and reproductive issues and concerns, to create a certain health-seeking behavior among young people, to gather frequently asked questions (FAQ) among the young people in the city, to have a baseline information on the needs of the young people in the schools, to be able to establish IEC strategies particularly through the internet, drop box and YP Hotline that will be conveniently and comfortably addressing their sexual and reproductive issues and concerns and finally to be able to improve the health services towards a youth friendly services in the health facilities in the city.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on December 04, 2013.

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