The Aklan Provincial Aids Council of the Province of Aklan celebrated the 11th year of combating AIDS with the theme: Zero New HIV Infections, Zero Discrimination and Zero Aids-related death. It was held on December 9, 2011 at the Aklan Training Center, Old Buswang, Kalibo, Aklan. The millennium development goals showcase of the long-week celebration.
The council seeks the accountability from societies and communities action to meet the global goal to: Halt and Reverse the spread of HIV by 2015.
The Provincial HIV/AIDS Program is implemented by a network of government agencies headed by the Aklan Provincial Government. The non-government sector is represented by the organizations of adolescents at the provincial and community levels. In the report of Dr. Cornelio V. Cuachon (Provincial Health Officer I), the vulnerable sectors namely the Butterfly Brigade (a gay group) and the PLHAS (People Living with HIV/AIDS) form part of the implementing structure and are among the most active program partners. The Municipal Health Offices facilitate the implementation of services at the community level and advocate for local level municipal AIDS Councils.
Does the need for HIV/AIDS services exist? According to Dr. Cuachon, there was Peter’s case in 2002. He is now being assisted through counselling and anti-retroviral medicine. Then in 2005, another Aklanon was monitored to have advanced state of AIDS, but has chosen not to reveal his condition. He had foregone assistance from the PHO. There are more vulnerable sectors that are at greater risk.
The report also reveals there are 100 registered sex workers in Kalibo alone. The sex trade in Boracay is prevalent and peaks during the summer season, coinciding with the arrival of more tourists. In most cases, tourists bring sex workers with them. It was in 2005 when Aklan launched comprehensive and integrated HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Program.
The study in 2002 on MSM (Me Having Sex with Men) in the resort island of Boracay, Malay, Aklan showed high prevalence of risky sexual behaviour among male sex workers and homosexuals. The study pointed out the need for a program to reverse potential spread of STD cases and arrest the incursion of HIV in the area. With these results in the study, the first comprehensive, community-based HIV/AIDS Program in Aklan was launched.
Gov. Carlito S. Marquez signed Executive Order No. 16 in March 2006 geared to sustain the program of HIV/AIDS Council. It provided the budget allocation out of the Provincial Development Fund. The capability-building program has the biggest share of the budget of more than Php1 million for the upgrading of facilities, procurement of supplies, franchising of the POPSHOP project (A DKT-International Project for the provision of contraceptive supplies at minimal cost) and some initial supply of reagents for the Voluntary Counselling, Screening and Testing Centers (VCST), Anti-retroviral medicines and initial procurement of STI medicines.
Getting to Zero of AIDS Council is not only in Aklan but of the whole Philippines. In Aklan, the cases declined to 27 percent from 939 cases to 688 in 2005. The decrease is attributed to the spirit of volunteerism of the youth, government agency partners, UNFPA-TAP, DOLE, TESDA, DepEd and the US Peace Corp volunteers.
Dr. Cuachon strongly requested the media practitioners to help and act now to help foster government, civil society and private sector partnership in the prevention of HIV/AIDS.
In Western Visayas, there are 44 new cases of HIV/AIDS victims as of October 2011. On the whole, HIV/AIDS cases by provinces are as follows: Aklan – 22, Antique – 4, Iloilo – 70, Capiz – 7, Guimaras – 3, and Negros Occidental – 59 or a total of 165.
Those highly vulnerable and susceptible to HIV/AIDS are the younger, more restless males ages 20-29 years old, sex workers, males who have sex with other males, drug users, and clients of sex workers. /MP