The Positive Action Foundation Philippines Inc. (PAFPI) marked its 18th anniversary with a call from the organization’s president, Joshua Boell-Formentera, for a need to better responses to deal with the continuing worsening HIV situation in the Philippines.
PAFPI was established in September 1998 – over a decade after the first HIV case was reported in the Philippines – after members of the HIV community noted the lack of treatment, care and support services in the country. The organization aimed to contribute to the national responses not only in advocacy to prevent the spread of HIV, but also in the provision of treatment, care and support for people living with HIV (PLHIV), as well as their affected families/loved ones.
Interestingly, despite seemingly numerous efforts done to curb the spread of HIV, the infection rates in the Philippines continue to balloon. In October alone, based on the latest data from the HIV/AIDS and ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP) released by the Department of Health’s Epidemiology Bureau, just under 700 Filipinos were newly infected with HIV. Specifically for the month starting the last quarter of 2015, there were 651 new HIV Ab sero-positive individuals, a figure 21% higher compared to the same period last year. Incidentally, 85% (24,655) of all the 29,079 diagnosed cases in the Philippines were actually reported in the past five years, from January 2010 to October 2015.
“We’re not doing enough,” said Boell-Formentera, who stressed the need for “strong collaboration in terms of addressing the problem. This means that not only non-government organizations should act, but also government agencies.”
Boell-Formentera also stressed the need to merge “testing and TCS services.”
Among others, PAFPI gives HIV 101 seminars/workshops (e.g. to youth and overseas Filipino workers and their families); provides temporary housing to people living with HIV (PLHIV), particularly those who were kicked out of their homes due to their HIV status; and extends support in accessing treatment, care and support (TCS) services.
For “providing an alternative family, PAFPI has already done a lot for us,” said Moses Ayuha and Renato Nocos, persons living with HIV who were reached by the organization after their families disowned them.
The people served have also become PAFPI’s volunteers, as the organization takes pride in the increasing number of its volunteers “whose commitment help deliver treatment, care and support services for HIV,” said Boell-Formentera.
For Boell-Formentera, though, challenges come with the improvements – e.g. funding continues to be an issue, sustainability efforts and formation of partnerships because, as Boell-Formentera stressed, “everyone should get involved in solving this issue.”
In the end, Boell-Formentera stressed the continuing need to find solutions to the HIV problem fast. “If we don’t face it (now), we’re going to face the consequences; and how are we going to be able to do that, then?” he said.
As PAFPI marked its 18th anniversary, a “pageant for a cause” was held, with the winner (i.e. Miss PAFPI 2015) now expected to help “inspire PLHIV in their struggle to live a good life after knowing of their HIV status.”