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Palawan organizations expand access to HIV screening

The aim is to capacitate Palawan LGUs to not only be able to provide HIV screenings to residents, but also to be able to draw on a pool of local CBS trainers.

Photo credit: Belle Cortezano

To capacitate Palawan LGUs to not only be able to provide HIV screenings to residents, but also to be establish a pool of local community-based HIV screening trainers, Ugat ng Kalusugan/Roots of Health (ROH) conducted a five-day community-based HIV screening (CBS) training of trainers.

The effort was supported by the Palawan Provincial Department of Health, the Puerto Princesa Social Hygiene Clinic, the Aids Society of the Philippines (ASP), municipal health offices of Palawan, and Manan Trust.  

“Puerto Princesa has one of the highest rates of HIV incidence in the Philippines. But that may just be the tip of the iceberg because screening services in Palawan municipalities are currently limited; most people have to go to Puerto Princesa for testing,” said ROH executive director, Amina Evangelista Swanepoel. With this effort, “we want to ensure that Palawenos can find out their HIV status wherever in the province they live, so (we) are capacitating colleagues all over Palawan.” 

The training comes just as the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the new Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act was just signed. The act aims to address the growing HIV epidemic in the country by forging stronger alliances among government, the private sector, civil society organizations, faith-based organizations, media, and other stakeholders. 

Amina added: “We cannot just sit back and wait for the Department of Health (DOH) to fully implement the HIV/AIDS Law, nor can we rely on the Palawan provincial government as they have not allocated ample funds for the reproductive health budget. There needs to be more access to education and testing services for HIV. The government also needs to do more to promote the use of condoms in the battle against HIV. We must take on the challenge and work with partners who want to curb the spread of HIV in the Philippines.”

Currently, 80% of the country’s HIV program costs are covered by the Global Fund, which operates in 38 sites. But the project will end in 2020, so “in the next two years the Philippine government will need to take charge of the HIV response.”

With the CBS training, Palawan now has a pool of 14 CBS trainers who can conduct trainings in various municipalities. Twenty-four volunteers will have been trained to conduct HIV screenings from Agutaya, Brooke’s Point, Dumaran, Narra, Roxas, San Vicente and Taytay. 

People wanting to get tested can contact their Municipal Health Office, the Provincial Health Office, or the Bantay HIV Palawan Facebook Page. 

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