The Reproductive Health and Wellness Center (RHWC) has added another form of HIV-testing option for those who seek to be tested outside their facility.
RHWC Head Dr. Jordana Ramiterre, during the I-Speak Media forum on Thursday, May 18, 2023, said that the option is called “Differentiated Service” wherein free self-testing kits are given to those who avail of free testing.
“People will be afraid, they will be afraid to go to a facility, they will be afraid about confidentiality so deciding to have a test is actually difficult. Doon sa differentiated service medyo bago po ito, it can be facility-based, pwedeng pumunta sa facility, it can be community-based. The service providers we have now have what we call assisted self-testing or own self-testing. Meron po tayong test kits although medyo naubusan ngayon. This is one of the innovations that we are doing currently. (People will be afraid to go to a facility, and they will be afraid about confidentiality so deciding to have a test is actually difficult. The differentiated service, it is quite new. It can be facility-based and it can be community-based. The service providers we have now can assist with self-testing or own self-testing. We have test kits though we do not have stocks now. This is one of the innovations that we are doing currently),” Ramiterre said.
Ramiterre said that the self-testing kits are sourced from the Global Fund through the Department of Health and more stock of these kits is on the way.
For the prevention option, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PREP) is now being offered at RHWC for people who may be at risk of HIV or who may have a partner who is HIV positive.
“They can take anti-retroviral treatment. This is to prevent [HIV]. Ang requirement nito is dapat HIV negative sila to prevent them from getting infected. (The requirement of this is they should be HIV negative to prevent them from getting infected and this is available),” Ramiterre said, adding that while this kind of service is not acceptable and may be frowned upon by others, they are making it available for those who need it.
Currently, the RHWC provides PREP in Davao City and is also available in other community centers like the Olympus Society of Davao Community Center.
She said that they pushed to have PREP because they have been promoting the ABCDs (Abstinence, Be Faithful, Condom, No to Drugs) to prevent HIV but cases are still on the rise.
“Globally ginagamit po ang PREP, US, UK, ginagamit po ang prep so why not provide services since it is available (Globally PREP is being used, in the US and the UK, it is being used, so why not provide services since it is available),” she added.
As to the cases in Davao City, there is an increase in cases from the same period last year compared to this year.
“Last year kasi we have a total of 3,904 as of March 2022, as of March 2023 that is 4,415 so that is around 40 plus per month ang new cases. Ang age group na mataas is nasa 25-34 years old followed by 15-24 years old if you can look at that it is basically the biologically, hormonally reproductive age group (Last year, we have a total of 3,904 as of March 2022 data and as of March 2023 is 4,415 so that is around 40 plus per month new cases. The age group with the highest number of cases is 25-34 age years old followed by 15-24 years old. If you can look at that it is basically the biologically, hormonally reproductive age group),” Ramiterre said.
City Health Office Health and Education Promotion Officer III Priscilla Senoc also during the forum that the rising cases, despite the information and education campaign and promotion made by the CHO and stakeholders, could be attributed to complex socio-economic factors and also influences of modern technology.
“Naay transactional sex, it is economic eh, and survival pud siya and even in the LGBT community, naa sa LGBT. In terms sa socio-cultural media influences nagbag-o pud ang behavior ng younger people ug tan-awon nato sa data 15 years old and below- 15 kabuok ang sa Davao City. (There is the existence of transactional sex, it is economic, and it is also survival and even in the LGBT community, it [transactional sex] also exists there. In terms of the socio-cultural and social media influences the behavior of young people has changed, we have data for [HIV] for 15 years old and below–15 are in Davao City,” Senoc said, adding that there are a lot of factors behind the rise of HIV cases.
The data mentioned are from the cases of HIV from 1993-March 2023.
“There are young people, not just girls na hindi na relationship ang hanap, meron din talagang they are not sex workers, pwede transactional, pwede for economic reasons… hindi na gusto ng ka-relasyon ang gusto sa apps lang, ka-sex lang I am not saying that they are doing this all the time because we need to do research about that (There are a lot of people, not just young girls who are not looking into a relationship there are cases wherein they are not sex workers, it can be transactional, it can be for economic [reasons]…they do not want a relationship they just want to use [social media] applications and to have sex. I am not saying that they are doing this all the time because we need to do research about that),” Ramiterre added.
She said that addressing this starts from home and in school.
“This is something that we need to also address because it starts in the home, growing up with responsible parenthood is important, education in schools is very important, value formation is very important,” she said.
ALAGAD- Mindanao Executive Director Mike Mahinay said during the forum that the Philippines already has an HIV-AIDS Medium Term Plan. Among the findings is that for prevention, education should start as young as 10 years old.
“Naay lima ka pillars, [it include] prevention treatment strengthening, targeting sa prevention, ang pag-educate para dili matakdan og HIV ang kabataang Pilipino manukad sa 10 years old, na direct namo nga target ani ang DepEd (There are five Pillars, that include the prevention and treatment strengthening, targeting the prevention, the education so that young people will not be affected by HIV starts at 10 years old. We have already directed efforts and our target is to reach for DepEd),” Mahinay said, adding that they already had an initial meeting with the Department of Education to discuss strategies as ways forward.
Senoc said that the Health Promotion Office planning to come up with a consultative meeting with the Department of Education, City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO), government organizations, Sangguniang Kabataan, the National Youth Commission and Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPCs) to collectively address the issue on HIV. CIO