The Northern Mindanao Medical Center has been named as the newest HIV/AIDS treatment hub in Mindanao during the 30th International AIDS Candlelight Memorial and Mobilization (IACMM) at Kiosko Kagawasan, Divisoria in Cagayan de Oro City.
A treatment hub is a facility with an established HIV/AIDS Core team (HACT) that provides prevention, treatment, care and support services to people living with HIV. Antiretroviral treatments (ARVs) can only be accessed through these facilities (SEE LIST OF TREATMENT HUBS IN THE PHILIPPINES).
Cagayan de Oro City is one of the hotspots being observed by the Department of Health (DOH), with three persons with HIV or AIDS already dead within the year, and possibly many other HIV-related deaths not reported.
The 30th IACMM in the city was organized by the Misamis Oriental – Cagayan de Oro AIDS Network (MOCAN,) whose membership comes from Misamis Oriental and CDO’s government agencies, civil society organizations, religious organizations, hospitals, academe and other institutions . Themed “In solidarity,” the activity emphasized the need for people living with and affected by HIV to join hands and work together in the response to HIV.
“Dalawang kaso ng HIV/AIDS ang naitala noong 2009, zero noong 2011, 14 noong 2012, at walo na sa simula ng 2013. Concerned kami na dadami pa ang mga kaso sa inyong lugar (Two HIV cases were reported in 2009, none in 2011, 14 in 2012, and 13 already at the start of 2013. We are concerned that the number of cases will continue growing),” said Department of Health Assistant Secretary Enrique Tayag during the announcement. “Magandang balita at ang Northern Mindanao Medical Center ay magbibigay na ng antiretroviral treatment (That the Northern Mindanao Medical Center will start giving antiretroviral drugs is good news).”
Fritzie Estoque, MOCAN chairperson, stressed that solidarity in communities is essential to reduce stigma and promote the involvement of people living with HIV in order to ensure a more effective HIV response. For MOCAN, only when communities unite will universal access to quality health and social services be effectively advocated.
The need to further educate was also stressed during the gathering.
In a testimony, Razz, a person living with HIV (PLHIV) for 10 years, recounted his experience of stigma and discrimination in the past years. “Dati, blood pressure lang ang kukunin, may newspaper pa (Before, when blood pressure was taken, newspaper was placed first)”, he said in the vernacular.
Razz also highlighted how the community in general still has negative attitudes towards the disease. “Unsay connotation sa tao nga naay HIV/AIDS? Damak ka, uwagan ka, igat ka, bisan kinsa lang. Wala ta kabalo kung unsa ka-sakit ang naay ani nga kondisyon (What are the connotations of people living with HIV/AIDS? You are dirty. You are overly sexual. You are promiscuous. No one knows how painful it is to be in this condition)”, he said.
Stigma and discrimination were not just directed towards PLHIV but also to those immediate family members affected by the disease. “Kabalo ba mo unsa kasakit? Ok ra sa amoa nga infected. How about the significant others nga affected? Ingnun ka imong anak naay HIV/AIDS. Di ba sakit? Kung pwede pa lang muhawa ka sa lugar. Particular kung naa kay anak, ingun siya nga imong papa naay AIDS (Do you know how painful it is? For us who are infected, it is OK. How about the significant others of those who are affected? Someone tells you your child has HIV/AIDS. Isn’t it painful? If only I can leave my place. Particularly if you have children, people tell you kids that their father has AIDS)”, Razz said.
Razz ended with the strong call for the public to get diagnosed early to prevent complications and early deaths.