The participants of the 13th Philippine National Convention on AIDS (PNCA) of the AIDS Society of the Philippines (ASP) signed the “2014 AIDS Manila Manifesto”, which stressed the need for “all stakeholders (to) review and re-commit to their roles in HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support, bearing in mind the approaches and interventions based in evidence that have been proven effective and valuable.”
Over 300 individuals and 56 organizations gathered for the 2014 version of the PNCA, which gathers key people working to end the spread of HIV, as well as the provision of treatment, care and support (TCS) for people living with HIV (PLHIV). This year, included topics ranged from the importance of evidence gathered from the Asia-Pacific Region, and the national scenario. Also included were the HIV-positive community’s perspectives.
In response to the six themes highlighted – i.e. education, HIV testing for minors, human rights issues of PLHIVs, HIV testing and counseling, and antiretroviral treatment (ART) – Dr. Jose Melchor Sescon, ASP president, said that “the ASP recognizes the work (that still has) to be done in formulating successful strategies and executing them in partnership with the government.”
On the need to integrate HIV in the education curriculum, the 2014 AIDS Manila Manifesto states: “We affirm that as majority of the Philippine population is made up of young people below 25, HIV and AIDS education must be provided comprehensively in the primary and secondary levels that are centered on sexual and reproductive health and rights.”
“There is a need to review and revise sexuality education curriculum content and its age group recipient because of early sexual debut,” Sescon said.
On the recommendation for the HIV testing for minors, Sescon said that “there is a need for national policy guidelines (using CWC framework) regarding HIV testing among minors, and a need to clarify roles of social workers, peer educators and medical personnel in testing minors.”
The 2014 AIDS Manila Manifesto further states:
“We uphold the principle that an evidence-based, rights-based and gender-responsive intervention on HIV and AIDS is non-discriminatory. No one should be criminalized or discriminated against because of gender, age, race, ethnicity, disability, religious or spiritual beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, status as a sex worker, prisoner or detainee, drug use or HIV status.
“We advocate for the ideal that all people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people are entitled to the same rights as everyone else because we are all born free and equal.”
To address human rights issues experienced by PLHIVs, Sescon said that there is a need to revise and update Republic Act 8504 to reflect “more responsive, promotive, and protective provisions among PLHIV and to popularize means to address and redress grievance.”
As for HIV testing and counseling, “there is a need to intensify coverage and reach and adopt more responsive program actions to the ever changing science/technology as with HIV programs (e.g. rapid test, saliva test, community HIV test) based on evidence available,” said Sescon. He added that a standardized counseling process and procedures and intensive trainings for peer educators and health care providers would to address quality issues.
On the ART guidelines, Sescon said that “treatment guidelines should be responsive to the ever changing science/technology and changes in the drivers of the HIV epidemic in the Philippines. We must intensify skills and competency in clinical HIV management and strengthen health systems in terms of ARV guidelines implementation. He adds that to increase quality of treatment of PLHIVs, PhilHealth coverage must be fully maximized for all PLHIVs and ARV forecasting must be improved.”
The signatories of the 2014 AIDS Manila Manifesto calls on legislators and the government to “take a more tolerant and equitable approach to policies and laws that do not discriminate and stigmatize, and therefore, prevent the further spread of HIV… We reaffirm our commitment to fairness, to universal access to healthcare and treatment services, and to support the inherent dignity and rights of all human beings.”