HUNDREDS of candles were lighted at the mini park of Cagayan de Oro City Hall to commemorate the 36th International Aids Candlelight Memorial and Mobilization (IACMM) last Sunday, May 19.
The IACMM is to remember those people who perished from human immunodeficiency virus-acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV-Aids) and to recognize people living with HIV and those who fight for the advocacy.
One of the oldest and largest grassroots mobilization campaigns for HIV awareness in the world, the IACMM also serves as an important intervention for global solidarity, breaking down barriers of stigma and discrimination, and giving hope to new generations.
Last Sunday’s celebration was participated by more than a hundred people, including the Local Aids Council, the Department of Health (DOH)-Northern Mindanao, City Health Office, non-government organizations, people living with HIV and the youth sector.
The activity started around 4 p.m. with a mass at the St. Augustine Metropolitan Cathedral, followed by a program at the City Hall mini park wherein the DOH-Northern Mindanao presented an HIV 101 and situationer on HIV-Aids in the region.
“Ang among pamaagi (our approach) is more on advocacy, HIV 101,” doctor Dave Mendoza of DOH-Northern Mindanao said.
He added that there are only three modes of transmission, which are through blood, semen/vaginal fluid, and breastfeeding.
According to Mendoza, the recorded reactive and positive HIV cases in the region from 1994 up to the present reached less than 1,600, and its still increasing.
“In the next five to ten years, makita gyud nimo nga mosaka pa sya (you will see that it will increase). It will always rise. Pero pag abot nga ma-saturate na sya (but there will a time that it will saturate), that’s the time nga (that) we don’t know when,” Mendoza said.
However, he added, that this should not be cause for alarm as this signify that the number of people living with HIV who let themselves be tested has increased, thus, they can be given treatment right away.
He said that one reason why the record of people living with HIV-Aids increased is because many have already come out because they already know what to do and that the stigma is declining.
He shared that previously, the percentage of people coming in to their clinic to be tested HIV-Aids only reached to 20 percent. At present, they have reached 60 to 65 percent.
At present, Northern Mindanao Medical Center is the only treatment hub for HIV-Aids in the region. However, Mendoza said that the DOH is planning to make the City Health as a satellite treatment hub.
“We are now trying to make City Health Office as a satellite treatment hub,” Mendoza said.
The Local Aids Council (LAC), on the other hand, according to City Councilor Ma. Lourdes Gaane, vice chairman of LAC, has its focus on educating the youth, especially with the rising of social media.
Gaane said they are also planning on creating a program which will not only do advocating activities but also to address the concerns on stigma, and provide support in the treatment and counseling of people living with HIV.