Sunday, September 18, 2011

Attitude and Behavior --- Still Major Issues in the Fight Against AIDS

Attitude and Behavior --- Still Major Issues in the Fight Against AIDS
(An Interview with Mr. Bong Yap, Project Coordinator, AIDS Society of the Philippines b Gina Rosal - Duminy)

The AIDS Society of the Philippines is one of the leading non-government organizations advocating HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.  It is unique as its membership is comprised of individual professional members who support its mandate of campaigning for the education, prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS.  Its primary objective is, “To assist in the prevention and control of the spread of HIV in the Philippines and serve as a national forum for exchange of information in collaboration with AIDS service organizations and other agencies involved in AIDS work.”

Mr Bong Yap completed a degree in Economics and worked for the large part of his career in the private sector.  He joined the AIDS Society of the Philippines in 1999 and has not left ever since.  From this period he has seen how the issue of AIDS/HIV has evolved through the years.

The following highlight his responses to interview questions on the topic:

How has the trend been for AIDS/HIV cases in the Philippines in the last five (5) years?

“Majority of HIV positive individuals would fall within the 25 – 29 year old age group and are dominantly male.  These men are also largely homosexual.  Five (5) years ago we would have 5 – 10 cases reported at a time, now we would get 100.  At that time the dramatic increase could also be the outcome of consistent awareness campaigns on AIDS.  Consistently reaching out could have resulted in more HIV positive people to come out and seek help.” 

On Prevention and control.  Mr. Yap shared that this is something that the society can do through continuous spreading of the awareness on HIV/AIDS.  What is interesting about the society is that it is made up individual members.  While the society is an NGO, above all, we are also a professional group.  It opens up a lot of doors for the society and the individual members to enhance our work and bring it a notch higher.” 

What are the key areas of difficulty in your work?

Community’s Attitude Towards AIDS.  “AIDS has the same stigma as something like leprosy.  People are afraid that we would contract it like a virus.  For example, there was a family that was in San Lazaro hospital for HIV testing.  We were kept there and were being protected from our community that wanted to burn all of them.  Such attitude makes acceptance and integration very difficult for HIV-positive individuals.”

Behavior.  “While much headway has already been achieved in the awareness campaign on AIDS, people remain careless and expose themselves to risk.  Despite people’s awareness re the disease, people would still not practice “safe sex” and will not use condoms or will get involved with multiple sex partners.  We also work a lot with prostitutes and provide free condoms.  But when the supply runs out, these prostitutes will move on without the use of condoms.  While the awareness is high, people would still not change our behavior.  This is why the awareness must always be reinforced.”

Funding.  “Being an NGO, the AIDS Society is dependent on donations.  This means that while we may have worthy and efficient programs, our realization will always be dependent on whether there is funding obtained from donations.  Primary source of funding is from the Global Fund for AIDS.” 

How do you get your message out? 

Target Audience.  “The AIDS Society targets the following groups:  homosexuals, prostitutes, migrant workers (OFWs) and drug users.  We also target the general population of adolescents to brief them early on regarding the risks, etc.” 

Stakeholder Support.  “The AIDS Society has organized itself in a way that it is able to work closely together with the following groups in rolling out our campaigns and programs:

  • Local Government Units (LGUs) – specific activities with the LGUs include training and counseling, testing, peer education.  The objective is to keep on scaling up AIDS/HIV awareness and knowledge of members of the local government and our other units i.e. youth groups.  The AIDS Society is present in 16 sites all over the country through our work with LGUs.  For blood safety and testing, the society has 23 sites all over the country.
  • The Church – The Daughters of Charity is an example of a religious congregation that fully supports our ideals; “Church” or religious organization means an “inter-faith” approach where we can work with all religions; an example is the support we get also from Iglesia ni Cristo;
  • Government Agencies – such as the DOLE that supports the program of having an “AIDS information counter” in the workplace, such as those being put up in call centers.
  • Individuals Members/Private Citizens – as mentioned earlier, the society is composed mainly of individual professionals who help push the society forward;

Campaign Tools
  • Printed Publications - The AIDS Society of the Philippines publishes a “Quick Reference Guide on HIV/AIDS” for returning OFWs.  We also published a book, “AIDS in the Philippines,” that is available for sale.
  • Radio – The Society holds free orientations and briefings for invited radio personalities.  The objective is to get HIV/AIDS in the consciousness of these media personalities hoping that we will pick it up and join the awareness campaign.
  • Special Events – The Society holds briefings and orientations to spread awareness on the topic.  Another special event is the “AIDS Media Awards” initiated by ASP in 1999. It is a media and literary contest and used mass media resources to inform, educate, and communicate with the public about HIV/AIDS.  This was implemented through a partnership with media with the general public as target audience.

AIDS Society of the Philippines
Contact Info
AIDS Society Of The Philippines
2/F, OTM Building
#71 Scout Tuazon Street

Brgy. South Triangle
Quezon City 1103

Phone: (632) 376-2541 / 410-0204
Fax: (632) 376-2546

Monday, September 12, 2011

This is a sample section of an interactive DVD about HIV/AIDS made by UNICEF Philippines, in partnership with the Department of Education. It is targeted at young people.

'The Power of You' video is part of a set of DepEd/UNICEF education materials about HIV and STIs aimed at the youth.  The story is about the lives of Francis and Sara,  two regular teens faced with relationship dilemmas.

Sara is a 16-year old high school honor student. She has an older boyfriend, Bob, who is pressuring her to 'do it' with him to prove her love. What will Sara do?

Like Sara, Francis is also in 4th year high school, a popular guy and a star basketball player.  Francis is under a lot of peer pressure to prove his 'macho' image by trying drugs and having sex with a girl who’s running after him. 

Sara and Francis are both faced with difficult decisions, similar to most teens nowadays.  What would they choose to do?  The ‘Power of You’ video tells a great story and why one should believe in one’s power to say NO.   

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

HIV/AIDS: Frequently Asked Questions


What is HIV / AIDS?
            H – Human: because the virus can only infect human beings
I – Immuno-deficiency: because the effect of the virus is to create a deficiency, a failure to work properly, within the body’s immune system.
V – Virus: because the organism is a virus, which means one of its characteristics is that it is incapable of reproducing by itself. It reproduces by taking over the machinery of the human cell.

A – Acquired: because it’s a condition one must acquire or get infected with; not something transmitted through the genes
I – Immune: because it affects the body’s immune system, the part of the body which usually works to fight off the germs such as bacteria and viruses
D – Deficiency: because it makes the immune system deficient (makes it not work properly)
S – Syndrome: because someone with AIDS may experience a wide range of different diseases and opportunistic infections.

  1. What are the symptoms of HIV/AIDS?
There are usually no HIV symptoms for many years. That is why it can be hard to know if you have HIV

AIDS symptoms appear in the most advanced stage of HIV disease. In addition to a badly damaged immune system, a person with AIDS may also have:
-          thrush – a think, whitish coating of the tongue or mouth that is caused by a yeast infections and sometimes accompanied by a sore throat
-          severe and frequent infections
-          quick loss of more than 10 pounds of weight that is not due to increased physical exercise or dieting
-          long periods of frequent diarrhea
-          frequent fevers and/or night sweats
-          rare forms of pneumonia and cancers

  1. How long does it take for HIV to cause AIDS?
Currently, the average time between HIV infection and the appearance of signs that could lead to an AIDS diagnosis is 8 – 11 years. This time varies greatly from person to person and can depend on many factors including a person’s health status and behaviors. Today there are medical treatments that can slow down the rate at which HIV weakens the immune system. There are other treatments that can prevent or cure some of the illnesses associated with AIDS. As with other diseases, early detection offers more options for treatment and preventative healthcare.

  1. Where can I get a test for HIV?
Tests are available from hospitals, health clinics and social hygiene clinics, often free of costs.

Ideally, parents of an adolescent below 18 years of age should accompany him/her to the health clinic provider to give consent. However, if this is not possible, the health service provider should allow the adolescent to provide his/her own consent for the medical intervention after pre-test information has been provided in a way so that the adolescent can easily understand the implications of an HIV test.

  1. How is HIV/AIDS transmitted?
These are the main ways in which someone can become infected with HIV
-          Unprotected penetrative sex with someone who is infected
-          Transfusion of contaminated blood or blood products, and using infected injection equipment
-          From an HIV-infected pregnant woman to her baby; this can occur during pregnancy, at birth and through breastfeeding. In the Philippines, although HIV prevalence among adult population remains less than 0.1%, HIV infections are increasing. The predominant mode of HIV transmission is through sexual intercourse. In 2008, 65% of newly reported HIV infections involved male-to-male sex. However, it is important not to stereotype. It is essential to understand that it is a behavior, not a sexual orientation or association with a specific group which puts a person at risk.

7. How long after a possible exposure should I be tested for HIV?

The time it takes for a person who has been infected with HIV to test positive for HIV antibodies is 3-6 months, which is commonly called the “Window Period”.

8. Is there a cure for HIV/AIDS?

There is currently no cure for HIV and AIDS. But there are treatments for people living with HIV in the Philippines.
The treatment is designed to strengthen the immune system to keep HIV from developing into AIDS or to relieve AIDS symptoms. Thanks to this treatment for HIV, people are now to live with HIV for many years. New treatments and research may help people live even longer.

9.      Is HIV always fatal?

Since there is currently no way to get rid of HIV from the body once someone is infected, most people with HIV will probably still have the virus when they die.
HIV is always thought of as an incurable, fatal illness, and it certainly can be – especially once a person’s immune system is weakened to the point that he or she has AIDS. Without treatment, it takes an average of 10 years for someone who gets HIV to develop AIDS. Some people get AIDS much more quickly, while others do not get it until much later.

10.   Is kissing a route of HIV transmission?

Kissing (even open-mouth kissing) is a very low risk activity in terms of HIV transmission. HIV is only present in saliva in very minute amounts, insufficient to cause infection with HIV.

11. Can you get HIV from a mosquito?

No, it is not possible to get HIV from mosquitoes. When taking blood from someone, mosquitoes do not inject blood from any previous person. The only thing that a mosquito injects is saliva, which acts as a lubricant and enables it to feed more efficiently.

12.  Can I become infected with HIV through normal social contact or activities such as shaking hands,  toilet seats, swimming pools, sharing cutlery, kissing, sneezes and coughs?

No.  HIV is not an aiborne, water-borne or food-borne virus, and does not survive for very long outside the human body.  Therefore ordinary social contact such as kissing, shaking hands, coughing and sharing cutlery does not result in the virus being passes from one person to another.
If students or teachers in a school are infected with HIV, they can continue their regular life as they did before acquiring the infection.  Everyone should be careful not to stigmatize and discriminate against people living with HIV.

13.  Can I become infected with HIV from needles on movie/cinema seats?

There have been a number of stories circulating via the Internet and e-mail, about people becoming infected from needles left on cinema seats and in coin return slots. These rumors appear to have no factual basis.

Sexually-Transmitted Infections (STIs)

  1. What are STIs? How is it different from HIV/AIDS?
STIs (sexually transmitted infections) are infections that are passed on through close body contact or the exchange of body fluids. Many people who have an STI don’t have any obvious symptoms or signs, so it’s important you get the facts about how they are spread, how to avoid infections, understand the risks if left untreated, and know what to do if you think you may have one.

   2.  What causes STIs?
Like other infections or diseases, STIs are caused by the spread of organisms like viruses, bacteria or parasites. STIs caused by viruses include hepatitis B, herpes, HIV and HPV (human papillomavirus). STIs caused by bacteria include Chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis.

3.  How common are STIs?
Unfortunately, STIs are more common that you would think. STIs are particularly common amoung young people aged between 15-29 years who make up about three quarters of reported STIs.  Most STIs can be easily cured with the medicine prescribed by a doctor.
4.  Do STIs lead to long-term damage?
If left untreated STIs can lead to serious and painful health consequences, ranging from infertility to cancer.  For example, chlamydia and gonorrhoea can cause inflammation and scarring of the fallopian tubes in women which could leasd to infertility.  In men, the same complications might occur in the tubes leading from the testicles which could also cause infertility problems, though it's much less common.  Syphilis can cause blindness, brain damage and heart disease.  These three infections are easy to test for and to cure.  It is really important that people with STIs are diagnosed early so they can receive proper treatment and avoid ongoing health problems and spreading the infection.

5.  Do STIs have symptoms?
Many people with an STI have no symptoms whatsoever,  and they can only be diagnosed through testing.  If signs and symptoms are present they may include things like:
  • unusual discharge from the penis, vagina or anus
  • itchiness around the genital area
  • a burning sensation when peeing
  • a rash, sores or small lumps on or around the penis, vagina or anus
  • unusual bleeding from the vagina e.g. after sex or between periods
  • pain and swelling inthe testicles
  • pain during sex
  • sore throat
  • swollen glands, fever and body aches
  • unexplained fatigue, night sweats and weight loss
6.  Who can get STIs?
Anyone can get a secually-transmissible infection, but they most common in people between 15 and 29 years of age.  The risk gets higher if you have had many sexual partners.  If the person you're having sex with has had many sexual partners or has injected drugs, your risk of infection is also increased.  The chances of having unsafe sec increase if you're drunk or using drugs.

7.  Can you tell if someone has an STI?
No, lots of people who have an STI don't have symptoms and may not even know they are infected.  Anyone who is or has been sexually active can have an STI.  You can't tell by the way they look, their cultural background, sexual orientation, number of secual partners or preferred type of sexual activity.  The only way to make sure you or your partner doesn't have an STI is to talk to your doctor about a test.  STI testing and treatment can be provided at health centers and clinics.

8.  Can I catch an STI through masturbation?
There is no risk associated with self-masturbation.  However there is a very low risk of getting STIs through mutual masturbation.  Herpes and genital warts can be passed through hand and genital contract with open sores or cuts.  Hepatitis B and HIV can also be caught through hand or finger cuts that come into contact with infected sperm, vaginal fluids or blood.

9.  If I have oral sex,  can I get an STI?
Unprotected oral sex can spread some STIs, particularly herpes.  Bacterial infections like gonorrhoea and syphilis can also be spread through oral sex.

10.  Are HIV and STIs  equally serious?
Most STIs can be easily cured with medicines prescribed by a doctor. On the other hand, even if HIV is also sexually transmitted, once a person is infected with HIV, he/she will remain infected for life. Treatment is available, but there is no cure yet. While an HIV-infected person can live a productive life, after years and possibly decades the immune system will fail, the person will eventually develop AIDS and die.

11. Is there a connection between HIV and STIs?
HIV and other STIs can impact upon each other. The presence of STIs in an HIV infected person can increase the risk of HIV transmission. This can be through a genital ulcer which could bleed or through increased genital discharge.
An HIV negative person who has an STI can be at increased risk of becoming infected with HIV through sex. This can happen if the STI causes ulceration or breaks in the skin (e.g. syphilis or herpes), or if it stimulates an immune response in the genital area (e.g. Chlamydia or gonorrhoea). HIV transmission is more likely in those with ulcerative STDs than non-ulcerative.

12.  Where can I get more information?

"Dial a Friend' Hotline
        Foundation for Adolescent Development, Inc. (FAD)
        Tel nos: (632) 525-1743   (632) 525-1881 (Mon-Fri, 9 am to 6 pm)

 HIV/STI Hotline
        Remedios AIDS Foundation, Inc. (RAF)
        Tel no: (632) 524-0551 (Tue-Sat, 9 am to 6 pm)


UNAIDS. Living in a World with HIV. Information for UN system personnel and their families.  Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS 2009. 2nd reprint, December 2009.

User's Gude to the Power of You Video.  UNICEF Philippines. September 2009.


Human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, is the virus that causes AIDS.  It attacks the body’s immune system. By weakening the body’s defences against disease, HIV makes the body vulnerable to a number of potentially life-threatening infections and cancers.  HIV is infectious,  which means it can be transmitted from  one person to another. 
If left untreated, HIV will almost always deplete the immune system, leaving the body vulnerable to one or more life-threatening diseases that normally do not affect healthy people. This stage of HIV infection is called AIDS, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.  The more the immune system has been damaged, the greater the risk of death from opportunistic infections (infections that take advantage of weaknesses in the immune system).[1]
In the Philippines, HIV epidemic can be described as low and slow in comparison with other countries, like in sub-Saharan Africa. The number maybe incomparable with other countries, but the uprising rate of occurrence is significantly alarming.

 Accordingly, from year 2003-2008, HIV diagnoses in the Philippines achieved a three-fold increase in its prevalence and still continuing over the subsequent years. It is noticeable among men particularly to people who belong to the third sex group (bill continuing over the subsequent years. It is noticeable among men particularly to people who belong to the third sex grisexual and homosexual). Also, the average age of people diagnosed positive  with HIV decreased from approximately 36 to 29 years old. Here are significant statistics:
-          There are 174 new HIV cases reported in December 2010 that add to the total infections to 1,591. The highest added cases since 1984.  
-          From 1984-2010, according to DOH's Philippine HIV and AIDS Registry Report, the present total reported HIV/AIDS cases is 6,016. The figure doesn’t yet include unreported cases – experts say it can be more than double the reported number.
-          DOH data show that 833 patients from 6,016 have developed into full –blown AIDS and 315 have died from AIDS.
-          In  2010, 97 per cent of total cases reported (168 out of 174 cases) were caused by unprotected sexual contact, and the rest of comes from injecting drug use and other unidentified transmission methods.
-          From the reported cases in December 2010, 95 percent were male aged 19 to 41 who got infected because of sexual contact.

[1] UNAIDS. Living in a World with HIV. Information for UN system personnel and their families.  Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS 2009. 2nd reprint, December 2009.