The Batangas Provincial Government listened to the call of Wagayway Equality Coalition (WEC) to amend the local HIV ordinance for this to “meet and address the demands of people living with HIV (PLHIVs) in the province.”
The amendments are expected to be rolled out starting this October.
According to WEC president Aivan Alvarez, the amendments will hopefully ensure that “the approach and implementation of the (local) HIV ordinance will be rights-based, in compliance to RA 11166 (Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act).” This way, “further stigma and discrimination that causes the barriers for community members to access services will be averted, the collaboration between civil society organizations and the LGU on HIV epidemic response will be strengthened, a mental health component will be included, and a greater participation will be ensured from PLHIV key populations through the appointment of representatives.”
The LGU’s HIV ordinance now has specific provisions on the need for compliance to RA 11166; the need to strengthen the local service delivery network; strengthening the partnership between the LGU and civil society organizations; and protecting the human rights of PLHIVs through nondiscrimination.
Similarly agreed were the need to better the representation of key populations and PLHIVs in the Local AIDS Council; allocation of budget for community-led interventions and programs; and the creation of a help desk designated for PLHIV rights violations.
The demands of the local PLHIV community were initially sent to Board Member (BM) Claudette Ambida, according to WEC president Aivan Alvarez, who stressed how the effort succeeded due to collaborative effort. As such, “kahit hihintayin pa ang pag-amend nito ay isa ng achievement ang pagkakaroon muli ng communication at pag-uusap sa community, sa mga service providers at LGU na nawala o naputol for some time.”
(“Even if we have to wait for the roll out of these amendments, this is a big achievement for us already, for the community to be able to communicate again with the service providers and the LGU, which was not practiced for some time now.”)
Supporting this initiative were TLF Share Collective Inc.; WEC’s legal consultant, Imagine Law; Provincial LGBT Alliance of Batangas; Pilipinas Shell Foundation; and HIV & AIDS Support House (HASH).
Also backing the initiative were: BMs Arlene Magboo, Arthur Blanco and Jhoana Villamor Corona; Analiza Abrenica, STI supervisor of the Provincial Health Office; JM Corpuz from the Batangas Medical Center Wellness Clinic; Eva Morillo of the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office; Maria Theresa Arellano of Batangas State University – Gender and Development office; Drs. Allen Santos and Riah Aguda, and Catherine Moral of Batangas City Health Office; Dr. Susan of Klinika Lipa/Lipa City SHC; and Batangas City Councilor Allysa Cruz.
Moving forward, Alvarez hopes for this to be revisited again, this time to – hopefully – help PLHIVs in the province have gainful employment/income sources that could support their other needs; establishment of a community center for the PLHIVs and key populations; and he revisiting of the provincial Anti-Discrimination Ordinance for it to have implementing rules and regulations that will be inclusive of other key populations like PLHIVs.