The Department of Health (DOH), on its own, is unable to fight the spread of HIV in the Philippines. This is according to DOH Undersecretary Dr. Vicente Y Belizario Jr. who – during the observance of the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial (IACM) – stressed the need for partnerships with various non-government organizations (NGOs).
“We have to look (elsewhere to know) what else we can do to have a rigid implementation of HIV and AIDS control and prevention (programs),” Belizario said, stressing that “we can’t settle with the status quo; it is not business as usual.”
Some positive changes to do with the Philippines’ response to HIV have been noted, however.
For the first time, the DOH is allocating more money for combating HIV. For 2015, “we already spent P300 million (for HIV-related campaigns),” Belizario said. When the year started, the budget only amounted to P100 million.
The DOH also already requested Congress for an additional budget for 2016, totaling P450 million.
“The DOH is more active that ever,” Belizario said.
Belizario similarly highlighted the partnerships that the government body formed, including with the Global Fund, World Health Organization, UN bodies, USAID, and local NGOs. With the partnerships, “we are not alone,” he said.
Other developments expected include the broadening of the benefit package provided by PhilHealth to people living with HIV; penetration of labor sectors to educate the labor force about HIV; and the increasing number of available treatment hubs in various parts of the country.
The DOH’s program to do with HIV and AIDS control and prevention is now one of the top five priorities of DOH under the remaining 13 to 14 months of the Pres. Benigno Aquino III’s administration.
“All we need is to be vigilant about this,” Belizario ended.