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US Embassy in Mla holds forum on workplace inclusiveness for PLHIVs

The US Embassy in Manila held a forum on workplace inclusiveness for people living with HIV (PLHIV), an attempt to tackle: 1) workplace-related issues encountered by PLHIVs, and 2) issues that employers face as they grapple with the effect/s of HIV among its employees. “We’ve made tremendous progress around the world, but in the Philippines, you have rates that are growing up by 2,000%, so something, more has to be done,” says US Ambassador to the Philippines, Philip Goldberg.

Angie Umbac of Rainbow Rights talks about the need to make workplaces inclusive, a step she said that could also help deal with the worsening HIV situation in the Philippines, which affects many members of the LGBT community. This is part of the forum on workplace inclusiveness for people living with HIV, organized by the US Embassy in observance of the World AIDS Day 2015.

Angie Umbac of Rainbow Rights talks about the need to make workplaces inclusive, a step she said that could also help deal with the worsening HIV situation in the Philippines, which affects many members of the LGBT community. This is part of the forum on workplace inclusiveness for people living with HIV, organized by the US Embassy in observance of the World AIDS Day 2015.

Angie Umbac of Rainbow Rights talks about the need to make workplaces inclusive, a step she said that could also help deal with the worsening HIV situation in the Philippines, which affects many members of the LGBT community. This is part of the forum on workplace inclusiveness for people living with HIV, organized by the US Embassy in observance of the World AIDS Day 2015.

In observance of World AIDS Day 2015, the US Embassy in Manila held a forum on workplace inclusiveness for people living with HIV (PLHIV), an attempt to tackle: 1) workplace-related issues encountered by PLHIVs, and 2) issues that employers face as they grapple with the effect/s of HIV among its employees.

As it is, the Philippines is one of only a handful of countries with increasing HIV infection rates. While, globally, HIV infection rates have stabilized and even been going down, in the Philippines – as it is in countries like Bangladesh, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Republic of Moldova and Sri Lanka – HIV infection rates continue to grow. The country is, in fact, only one of three countries in the Asia Pacific Region that is now categorized as having an expanding epidemic.

This October alone, data from the HIV/AIDS and ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP) released by the Department of Health’s Epidemiology Bureau showed that there were 651 new HIV Ab sero-positive individuals, a figure 21% higher compared to the same period last year.

Eighty-five percent (24,655) of all the 29,079 diagnosed cases in the Philippines were actually reported in the past five years, from January 2010 to October 2015.

“We’ve made tremendous progress around the world, but in the Philippines, you have rates that are growing up by 2,000%, so something, more has to be done,” said US Ambassador to the Philippines, Philip Goldberg.

For Goldberg, therefore, making workplaces inclusive is a very important step in combatting HIV, though “it’s only a segment, it’s not the answer by itself.”

Goldberg is, nonetheless, cognizant that making workplaces inclusive “also brings up many, many issues”. These include making companies – whose main goal is to grow profit – spend more to look after its employees; and stigma and discrimination that still affects many PLHIVs, including in workplaces.

In the end, though, Goldberg said that “there are solutions”, and “prevention and education are going to be key for all of the (accompanying issues). We need to do better job at prevention and education, so that all the things that are expensive are avoided. That’s our greatest challenge.”

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Among the speakers at the forum on workplace inclusiveness for PLHIVs were: Angie Umbac, president of Rainbow Rights Project, who discussed promoting inclusivity and diversity in workplaces in the Philippines; Ronivin Pagtakhan, LoveYourself executive director, who tackled HIV 101 and the Philippines’ business sector response to HIV; Teresita Cucueco, executive director of the Department of Labor-Occupational Safety and Health Center, who discussed the Philippine AIDS and Prevention and Control Act of 1998; and Jai Carinan, Thomson Reuters site lead for Pride at Work, who tackled inclusiveness of PLHIVs in the workplace.

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