IN OBSERVANCE of World Aids Day, the Zonta Club of Cebu II called for "unity" against the epidemic that has infected nearly 60,000 Filipinos and killed almost 3,000.
As part of its World Aids Day celebration, Zonta Club of Cebu II together with the Mandaue City government had a candle lighting ceremony on November 29 at the Mandaue City Heritage Plaza to remember all those who have been lost to the epidemic and to call for unity to fight Aids.
An HIV/AIDS Congress was also held on December 1 at Cebu Doctors' University auditorium to increase awareness on the dreaded disease.
"The commemoration of the World Aids Day is a celebration of unity. If we unite as one people, then we can combat this disease head on," said Zonta II member and LGBT champion Regal Oliva.
"While we condole with the loved ones of those who have departed with this disease, we send high hopes to those afflicted now that life can still be as normal as possible, if they receive regular treatment," shared Dr. Vivien Seno, focal person to the Mandaue Aids Council for Zonta Club of Cebu II.
"HIV-Aids is a growing concern not only for one demographic. It chooses no gender and can affect society if we do nothing. We can still stop AIDS. Get tested now. Know your status," she added.
Fighting Aids through greater awareness and prevention is a top priority because more and more Filipinos are afflicted with the disease.
HIV causes Aids, or the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, which destroys the human body’s natural ability to fight off all kinds of infections. The condition still does not have any known cure.
Antiretroviral treatment (ART) has been known to slow down the advance of HIV in cases detected early.
At least 31,458 Filipinos living with HIV were listed as undergoing ART as of September, according to the Department of Health.
"It is important that we control the spread of HIV early on. Getting tested is a good start, " Oliva said.
Dr. Van Philipp Baton, program manager of the HIV/Aids Program of DOH CHD7, led a powerhouse of speakers who talked on different issues and concerns about the epidemic. During the Basic HIV Orientation, the following topics were tackled such as HIV / Aids Epidemiology and National Statistics; HIV and Aids Policy Act, and HIV Counselling and Testing.
A panel discussion to address the Cebu drug problem to mitigate HIV spread was also conducted focusing on the programs to prevent and to address drug addiction; DSWD Retained and Devolved Programs and Services for PLHIV; and Self-Determination & Out-Patient Drug Rehabilitation.
The second panel discussion highlighted the Prevention of mother to child transmission (PMCT) of HIV: Women Empowerment where the speakers shared about the management of pregnant PLHIV; management of HIV-exposed infants, and support group for PLHIV mothers.
The third panel discussion talked about the SOGIE and HIV/Aids: Prevention of Sexual Transmission where the participants were briefed about SOGIE; Reducing Risky Behaviours; HIV / Aids in Closed Settings (Inmates & Female Sex Workers) and the Holistic Approach to Support for PLHIVs.
The last panel discussion focused on the Management of HIV / Aids in Adolescents and Adults. The following topics have been discussed such as: Post-exposure Prophylaxis; Treatment Algorithms: ARVs, Co-infections with TB, HBV and HCV; Management of Opportunistic Infections: Recognition, Diagnosis and Treatment of OIs; Management of HIV-Infected Healthcare Workers. (PR)