TRECE MARTIRES CITY, Cavite – In partnership with HIV & AIDS Support House (HASH) and SAIL Clinics, Cavite Provincial Health Office (PHO) joined in the annual celebration of International AIDS Candlelight Memorial with the theme “Keeping the light, honoring our rights, radiating pride” on May 27, 2022, at the Cavite Collaboration Center for Public Health Building, General Emilio Aguinaldo Memorial Hospital complex here which around 52 participants attended.
The short program started with an opening message from Dr. Nelson Soriano, Provincial Health Officer, saying that people should stop HIV together through HIV testing and prevention and educate others about it to make a positive change.
Gerry Obibe and Tracy Suarez led the prayer for a candle lighting ceremony with a red ribbon that symbolizes the battle against HIV and AIDS.
Afterward, Earl Patrick Penabella, SAIL Clinic Operations Manager, imparted that in “keeping the light” on HIV and AIDS, the need to talk about the virus should be maintained.
He added that there should be a human rights-based approach to create an enabling environment that will be helpful and essential in ending the HIV threat.
Lastly, in radiating pride, health equity and social justice should be achieved to end the disease.
The risk and cases of HIV and AIDS are continuously increasing, and the stigma and discrimination against the infected ones are continuously circulating.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is an infection that has no cure and can lead to the condition of AIDS or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. Acquiring this can be a threat to one’s life; hence spreading awareness about the virus can save lives.
As HIV affects the proportion of the LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual) community, stigma and discrimination are developing and growing, leading to the group’s vulnerability.
This is one of the reasons why most of the infected individuals, not just from the LGBTQIA community, are having a “hard time” seeking help and accessing services for HIV and AIDS.
Penabella mentioned that “undetectable equals untransmittable” means that if a person living with HIV is on regular treatment and therapy and has reached the undetectable levels, HIV cannot be transmitted to their partners. Therefore, every HIV patient should be encouraged and supported in getting HIV treatments, care, and services.
This year’s theme is not only about remembering the people who have lost their battle against HIV and AIDS but also honoring those who committed their lives to help the people affected by the disease and giving awareness to the public about it to create an intricate response and have a non-discriminatory environment.
Dr. Ana Maureen Villamar, HIV/AIDS Core Team (HACT) Physician said, “Aside from commemorating our loved ones, friends or someone who are acquainted with us who died because of HIV and AIDS, the ones who are survivors should also keep the light and guide other Filipinos that they would be able to survive AIDS and HIV as well.
“We should honor our rights because it is our right to live healthily and always radiate with pride, that we are always proud of ourselves, we keep our values and practice our responsibility as citizens and HIV advocates and enlighten everybody with the disease,” said Dr. Villamar.
Terrenze Angam, Case Manager of SAIL Clinic, pointed out the preventions and treatments for HIV and AIDS, including abstinence or no sexual intercourse, being faithful to your partner, using condoms, drug avoidance, and having enough knowledge about the disease, and the pre-exposure prophylaxis. Subsequently, a testimony of an HIV survivor and advocate was shared.
In closing, HIV Program Coordinator Haydelisa Maderaso expressed gratitude to the attendees and mentioned the upcoming World AIDS Day to be held in December 2022.