To “inform, de-stigmatize, de-mystify and promote HIV testing to key populations at higher risk for HIV,” the Department of Health (DOH) declared the observance of the National HIV Testing Week (NHTW) from May 11 – 15, preceding the AIDS Candlelight Memorial on May 17.
In a memorandum, DOH Secretary Janette L. Garin cited poor self-awareness to risk and HIV services, as well as persistence of stigma and discrimination in the society to the rise of HIV cases in the country since 2007. Also noted were the low testing rates among key populations at higher risk, such as males who have sex with males (MSM) and people who inject drugs (PWID).
The memorandum further stated that “all activities in relation to the forthcoming AIDS Candlelight Memorial shall be supportive of the general purpose of DOH in promoting and de-stigmatizing HIV testing. Thus, partners from various health institutions, facilities, organizations and communities are highly encouraged to initiate and conduct HIV testing activities including actual HIV testing in your areas as appropriate.”
The memorandum also authorizes the AIDS Research Group (ARG) of the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine (RITM) – together with the Disease Prevention and Control Bureau (DPCB), Health Promotion and Communication Services (HPCS), and the Philippine National AIDS (PNAC) Secretariat – to conduct activities related to the National HIV Testing week as prelude to the May 17 AIDS Candlelight Memorial Day.