Telecommunications company Globe Telecom has launched the “TxtHIV to 8504” campaign, a first of its kind SMS-based information, counseling, and clinic referral drive in Asia for people who wants to be tested for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) but are afraid of facing societal discrimination. The disease leads to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
“TxtHIV to 8504 is Globe Telecom’s way of tapping into the wide use of SMS in the country and harnessing the power of telecommunications to further solutions in health care. It offers an accessible and easy-to-use solution which can change and even save lives. Our assistance to this campaign is part of Globe Telecom’s advocacy to provide communities that it serves with access to social services,” said Fernando Esguerra, OIC of Globe corporate social responsibility.
Currently available only to Globe postpaid and prepaid mobile users, those at risk may simply text HIV to 8504 and answer five yes or no questions via an interactive voice recording to check if testing is necessary. The sender is then provided with contact details and addresses of the nearest specialized accredited health centers where they can go for assessment, counseling, and immediate treatment. The use of IVR, likewise, ensures that all calls remain very impersonal and confidential.
“I wish to thank all our collaborating partners for their support and involvement in this pioneering effort. Development of this IT-driven platform took some time as it required the involvement of key partner organizations that believe in the same cause of making health accessible to all, are willing to share their resources and expertise, and are committed to make the idea become a reality. Indeed, this is a trailblazing public, private, civil society partnership for an innovative, cost-effective, and practical solution to reach individuals who are at risk or vulnerable to HIV and STI infection,” said Oscar Picazo, chairman of Philippine NGO Support Program (PHANSuP).
PHANSuP spearheads TxtHIV to 8504 together with the Philippine National Aids Council, Globe, S&S Technologies, and local health programs of the cities of Manila, Pasay, Pasig, and Quezon. It is currently being piloted in Metro Manila but is expected to eventually go nationwide. More clinics and local government units are also being enjoined to be part of the program.
There are only seven countries in the world which are experiencing a steady increase in the number of HIV cases, and the Philippines is one of them. The Philippines received 12 new cases of HIV daily in 2013 from only one case in 2009, with 95% of them involving males. Since 1984, 17,450 Filipinos have been reported with HIV, 1,599 of them have progressed into AIDS.
By widening awareness about HIV and encouraging people to get tested, the campaign would be able to contribute to the country’s efforts of halting or reversing the spread of HIV by 2015 in line with the UN Millennium Development Goal 6.
At present, only one percent of the general population has been tested for HIV since most people are afraid to ask for help or simply do not know where to get information, making TxtHIV to 8504 an important avenue not only for sending across information about HIV but also in encouraging those who may be affected to take the first step. The text service is provided for free to Globe users for one year.
HIV may be contracted through blood transfusion, needle-sharing, mother-child transmission, and unprotected sexual contact.