BAGUIO City officials agree that education and the right information campaign are the most effective weapons in the fight against the Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV-Aids).

This common stand ran through the messages of Mayor Mauricio Domogan, Committee chair on Health and environment protection Councilor Fred Bagbagen, Health Services Office (HSO) head Dr. Rowena Galpo, Department of Health (DOH) OIC Amelita Pangilinan, other medical personnel and health advocates during an Aids memorial ceremony recently.

The message was echoed by Marlene de Castro of the Baguio Center for Young Adults (BCYA), as she emphasized that youths should employ intelligent decisions, and use discipline with responsibility when confronted with AIDS-related situations.

Government agencies, non-government organizations are within reach for persons needing help, she said.

Attending during the forum were members of the Baguio Association of Bars and Entertainers (Babes), aside from government personnel and concerned private individuals.

To boost information dissemination, the national Aids prevention control program was launched in 1988. It was followed up by the surveillance, organization of persons with Aids, establishment of the Bahay Lingap in 1995, an Aids international congress in the Asia and the Pacific in 1996, and an Aids congress hosted by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in 1997. The Philippine Information Agency (PIA), non-government organizations (NGOs) and the mass media joined the information campaign.

Because there is no known medical cure for Aids, everyone should keep safe and healthy, Councilor Bagbagen said.

Aids, though preventable, is transmitted through unprotected sex, blood transfusion, needle and syringe use especially among drug users, and breastfeeding.

Statistics show a steep increase in Aids cases due to rapid transmission, a rise that has been described as "epidemic."

For those infected, researches on pain treatment caused by Aids infections are being done, Dr. Galpo said in her message.

A voluntary, confidential and free diagnostic HIV testing is provided, including pre and post counseling, in coordination with the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center (BGHMC) and DOH-Cordillera, Dr. Pangilinan said.

Early diagnosis, treatment, care and support, including a non-stigma approach and non-discriminatory environment was found favorable for infected persons.

The ABCDE for the prevention of AIDS are: Abstinence; Be Faithful; Careful Sex; Don't Share Needles; Education and information.

Also sending representatives to the forum were the Baguio Aids watch council, City Social Welfare and Development Office, Department of Education, Family Planning Organization of the Philippines, the Philippine National Red Cross, among other national and local agencies. (Julie Fianza)