RA 8504: Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998

     
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REPUBLIC ACT NO. 8504 

AN ACT PROMULGATING POLICIES AND PRESCRIBING MEASURES FOR THE PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF HIV/AIDS IN THE PHILIPPINES, INSTITUTING A NATIONWIDE HIV/AIDS INFORMATION AND EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM, ESTABLISHING A COMPREHENSIVE HIV/AIDS MONITORING SYSTEM, STRENGTHENING THE PHILIPPINE NATIONAL AIDS COUNCIL, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.
   

Section 1. Title. — This Act shall be known as the “Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998.”

Sec. 2. Declaration of policies. — Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a disease that recognizes no territorial, social, political and economic boundaries for which there is no known cure. The gravity of the AIDS threat demands strong State action today, thus:

(a) The State shall promote public awareness about the causes, modes of transmission, consequences, means of prevention and control of HIV/AIDS through a comprehensive nationwide educational and information campaign organized and conducted by the State. Such campaigns shall promote value formation and employ scientifically proven approaches, focus on the family as a basic social unit, and be carried out in all schools and training centers, workplaces, and communities. This program shall involve affected individuals and groups, including people living with HIV/AIDS.

(b) The State shall extend to every person suspected or known to be infected with HIV/AIDS full protection of his/her human rights and civil liberties. Towards this end:
 

(1) compulsory HIV testing shall be considered unlawful unless otherwise provided in this Act;

(2) the right to privacy of individuals with HIV shall be guaranteed;

(3) discrimination, in all its forms and subtleties, against individuals with HIV or persons perceived or suspected of having HIV shall be considered inimical to individual and national interest; and

(4) provision of basic health and social services for individuals with HIV shall be assured.

(c) The State shall promote utmost safety and universal precautions in practices and procedures that carry the risk of HIV transmission.

(d) The State shall positively address and seek to eradicate conditions that aggravate the spread of HIV infection, including but not limited to, poverty, gender inequality, prostitution, marginalization, drug abuse and ignorance.

(e) The State shall recognize the potential role of affected individuals in propagating vital information and educational messages about HIV/AIDS and shall utilize their experience to warn the public about the disease.

Sec. 3. Definition of terms. — As used in this Act, the following terms are defined as follows:

(a) “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)” — a condition characterized by a combination of signs and symptoms, caused by HIV contracted from another person and which attacks and weakens the body’s immune system, making the afflicted individual susceptible to other life-threatening infections.

(b) “Anonymous Testing” — refers to an HIV testing procedure whereby the individual being tested does not reveal his/her true identity. An identifying number or symbol is used to substitute for the name and allows the laboratory conducting the test and the person on whom the test is conducted to match the test results with the identifying number or symbol.

(c) “Compulsory HIV Testing” — refers to HIV testing imposed upon a person attended or characterized by the lack of or vitiated consent, use of physical force, intimidation or any form of compulsion.

(d) “Contact tracing” — refers to the method of finding and counselling the sexual partner(s) of a person who has been diagnosed as having sexually transmitted disease.

(e) “Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)” — refers to the virus which causes AIDS.

(f) “HIV/AIDS Monitoring” — refers to the documentation and analysis of the number of HIV/AIDS infections and the pattern of its spread.

(g) “HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control” — refers to measures aimed at protecting non-infected from contracting HIV and minimizing the impact of the condition of persons living with HIV.

(h) “HIV-positive” — refers to the presence of HIV infection as documented by the presence of HIV or HIV antibodies in the sample being tested.

(i) “HIV-negative” — denotes the absence of HIV or HIV antibodies upon HIV testing.

(j) “HIV Testing” — refers to any laboratory procedure done on an individual to determine the presence or absence of HIV infection.

(k) “HIV Transmission” — refers to the transfer of HIV from one infected person to an uninfected individual, most commonly through sexual intercourse, blood transfusion, sharing of intravenous needles and during pregnancy.

(l) “High-Risk Behavior” — refers to a person’s frequent involvement in certain activities which increase the risk of transmitting or acquiring HIV.

(m) “Informed Consent” — refers to the voluntary agreement of a person to undergo or be subjected to a procedure based on full information, whether such permission is written, conveyed verbally, or expressed indirectly.

(n) “Medical Confidentiality” — refers to the relationship of trust and confidence created or existing between a patient or a person with HIV and his attending physician, consulting medical specialist, nurse, medical technologist and all other health workers or personnel involved in any counselling, testing or professional care of the former; it also applies to any person who, in any official capacity, has acquired or may have acquired such confidential information.

(o) “Person with HIV” — refers to an individual whose HIV test indicates, directly or indirectly, that he/she is infected with HIV.

(p) “Pre-Test Counselling” — refers to the process of providing an individual information on the biomedical aspects of HIV/AIDS and emotional support to any psychological implications of undergoing HIV testing and the test result itself before he/she is subjected to the test.

(q) “Post-Test Counselling” — refers to the process of providing risk-reduction information and emotional support to a person who submitted to HIV testing at the time that the test result is released.

(r) “Prophylactic” — refers to any agent or device used to prevent the transmission of a disease.
(s) “Sexually Transmitted Diseases” — refers to any disease that may be acquired or passed on through sexual contact.

(t) “Voluntary HIV Testing” — refers to HIV testing done on an individual who, after having undergone pre-test counselling, willingly submits himself/herself to such test.

(u) “Window Period” — refers to the period of time, usually lasting from two weeks to six (6) months during which an infected individual will test “negative” upon HIV testing but can actually transmit the infection.

ARTICLE I
EDUCATION AND INFORMATION

Sec. 4. HIV/AIDS education in schools. — The Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS), the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and the Technical Education and skills Development Authority (TESDA), utilizing official information provided by the Department of Health, shall integrate instruction on the causes, modes of transmission and ways of preventing HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases in subjects taught in public and private schools at intermediate grades, secondary and tertiary levels, including non-formal and indigenous learning systems: Provided, That if the integration of HIV/AIDS education is not appropriate or feasible, the DECS and TESDA shall design special modules on HIV/AIDS prevention and control: Provided, further, That it shall not be used as an excuse to propagate birth control or the sale or distribution of birth control devices: Provided, finally, That it does not utilize sexually explicit materials.

Flexibility in the formulation and adoption of appropriate course content, scope, and methodology in each educational level or group shall be allowed after consultations with Parent-Teachers-Community Associations, Private School Associations, school officials, and other interest groups. As such, no instruction shall be offered to minors without adequate prior consultation with parents who must agree to the thrust and content of the instruction materials.

All teachers and instructors of said HIV/AIDS courses shall be required to undergo a seminar or training on HIV/AIDS prevention and control to be supervised by DECS, CHED and TESDA, in coordination with the Department of Health (DOH), before they are allowed to teach on the subject.

Sec. 5. HIV/AIDS information as a health service. — HIV/AIDS education and information dissemination shall form part of the delivery of health services by health practitioners, workers and personnel. The knowledge and capabilities of all public health workers shall be enhanced to include skills for proper information dissemination and education on HIV/AIDS. It shall likewise be considered a civic duty of health providers in the private sector to make available to the public such information necessary to control the spread of HIV/AIDS and to correct common misconceptions about this disease. The training or health workers shall include discussions on HIV-related ethical issues such as confidentiality, informed consent and the duty to provide treatment.

Sec. 6. HIV/AIDS education in the workplace. — All government and private employees, workers, managers, and supervisors, including members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), shall be provided with the standardized basic information and instruction on HIV/AIDS which shall include topics on confidentiality in the workplace and attitude towards infected employees and workers. In collaboration with the Department of Health (DOH), the Secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) shall oversee the anti-HIV/AIDS campaign in all private companies while the Armed Forces Chief of Staff and the Director General of the PNP shall oversee the implementation of this Sec..

Sec. 7. HIV/AIDS education for Filipinos going abroad. — The State shall ensure that all overseas Filipino workers and diplomatic, military, trade, and labor officials and personnel to be assigned overseas shall undergo or attend a seminar on the cause, prevention and consequences of HIV/AIDS before certification for overseas assignment. The Department of Labor and Employment or the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Tourism and the Department of Justice through the Bureau of Immigration, as the case may be, in collaboration with the Department of Health (DOH), shall oversee the implementation of this Sec..

Sec. 8. Information campaign for tourists and transients. — Informational aids or materials on the cause, modes of transmission, prevention, and consequences of HIV infection shall be adequately provided at all international ports of entry and exit. The Department of Tourism, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Justice through the Bureau of Immigration, in collaboration with the Department of Health (DOH), shall oversee the implementation of this Act.

Sec. 9. HIV/AIDS education in communities. — Local government units, in collaboration with the Department of Health (DOH), shall conduct an educational and information campaign on HIV/AIDS. The provincial governor, city or municipal mayor and the barangay captain shall coordinate such campaign among concerned government agencies, non-government organizations and church-based groups.

Sec. 10. Information on prophylactics. — Appropriate information shall be attached to or provided with every prophylactic offered for sale or given as a donation. Such information shall be legibly printed in English and Filipino, and contain literature on the proper use of the prophylactic device or agent, its efficacy against HIV and STD infection, as well as the importance of sexual abstinence and mutual fidelity.

Sec. 11. Penalties for misleading information. — Misinformation on HIV/AIDS prevention and control through false and misleading advertising and claims in any of the tri-media or the promotional marketing of drugs, devices, agents or procedures without prior approval from the Department of Health and the Bureau of Food and Drugs and the requisite medical and scientific basis, including markings and indications in drugs and devises or agents, purporting to be a cure or a fail-safe prophylactic for HIV infection is punishable with a penalty of imprisonment for two (2) months to two (2) years, without prejudice to the imposition of administrative sanctions such as fines and suspension or revocation of professional or business license.

ARTICLE II
SAFE PRACTICES AND PROCEDURES

Sec. 12. Requirement on the donation of blood, tissue, or organ. — No laboratory or institution shall accept a donation of tissue or organ, whether such donation is gratuitous or onerous, unless a sample from the donor has been tested negative for HIV. All donated blood shall also be subjected to HIV testing and HIV(+) blood shall be disposed of properly and immediately. A second testing may be demanded as a matter of right by the blood, tissue, or organ recipient or his immediate relatives before transfusion or transplant, except during emergency cases: Provided, That donations of blood, tissue, or organ testing positive for HIV may be accepted for research purposes only, and subject to strict sanitary disposal requirements.

Sec. 13. Guidelines on surgical and similar procedures. — The Department of Health (DOH), in consultation and in coordination with concerned professional organizations and hospital associations, shall issue guidelines on precautions against HIV transmission during surgical, dental, embalming, tattooing or similar procedures. The DOH shall likewise issue guidelines on the handling and disposition of cadavers, body fluids or wastes of persons known or believed to be HIV-positive.
The necessary protective equipment such as gloves, goggles and gowns, shall be made available to all physicians and health care providers and similarly exposed personnel at all times.

Sec. 14. Penalties for unsafe practices and procedures. — Any person who knowingly or negligently causes another to get infected with HIV in the course of the practice of his/her profession through unsafe and unsanitary practice or procedure is liable to suffer a penalty of imprisonment for six (6) years to twelve (12) years, without prejudice to the imposition of administrative sanctions such as, but not limited to, fines and suspension or revocation of the license to practice his/her profession. The permit or license of any business entity and the accreditation of hospitals, laboratory, or clinics may be cancelled or withdrawn if said establishments fail to maintain such safe practices and procedures as may be required by the guidelines to be formulated in compliance with Sec. 13 of this Act.

ARTICLE III
TESTING, SCREENING AND COUNSELLING

Sec. 15. Consent as a requisite for HIV testing. — No compulsory HIV testing shall be allowed. However, the State shall encourage voluntary testing for individuals with a high risk for contracting HIV: Provided, That written informed consent must first be obtained. Such consent shall be obtained from the person concerned if he/she is of legal age or from the parents or legal guardian in the case of a minor or a mentally incapacitated individual. Lawful consent to HIV testing of a donated human body, organ, tissue, or blood shall be considered as having been given when:

(a) a person volunteers or freely agrees to donate his/her blood, organ, or tissue for transfusion, transplantation, or research;

(b) a person has executed a legacy in accordance with Sec. 3 of Republic Act No. 7170, also known as the “Organ Donation Act of 1991”;

(c) a donation is executed in accordance with Sec. 4 of Republic Act No. 7170.

Sec. 16. Prohibitions on compulsory HIV testing. — Compulsory HIV testing as a precondition to employment, admission to educational institutions, the exercise of freedom of abode, entry or continued stay in the country, or the right to travel, the provision of medical service or any other kind of service, or the continued enjoyment of said undertakings shall be deemed unlawful.

Sec. 17. Exception to the prohibition on compulsory testing. — Compulsory HIV testing may be allowed only in the following instances:

a) When a person is charged with any of the crimes punishable under Articles 264 and 266 as amended by Republic Act No. 8353, 335 and 338 of Republic Act No. 3815, otherwise known as the “Revised Penal Code” or under Republic Act No. 7659;

b) When the determination of the HIV status is necessary to resolve the relevant issues under Executive Order No. 309, otherwise known as the “Family Code of the Philippines”; and

c) When complying with the provisions of Republic Act No. 7170, otherwise known as the “Organ Donation Act” and Republic Act No. 7719, otherwise known as the “National Blood Services Act”.

Sec. 18. Anonymous HIV testing. — The State shall provide a mechanism for anonymous HIV testing and shall guarantee anonymity and medical confidentiality in the conduct of such tests.

Sec. 19. Accreditation of HIV Testing Centers. — All testing centers, hospitals, clinics, and laboratories offering HIV testing services are mandated to seek accreditation from the Department of Health which shall set and maintain reasonable accreditation standards.

Sec. 20. Pre-test and post-test counselling. — All testing centers, clinics, or laboratories which perform any HIV test shall be required to provide and conduct free pre-test counselling and post-test counselling for persons who avail of their HIV/AIDS testing services. However, such counselling services must be provided only by persons who meet the standards set by the DOH.

Sec. 21. Support for HIV Testing Centers. — The Department of Health shall strategically build and enhance the capabilities for HIV testing of hospitals, clinics, laboratories, and other testing centers primarily, by ensuring the training of competent personnel who will provide such services in said testing sites.

ARTICLE IV
HEALTH AND SUPPORT SERVICES

Sec. 22. Hospital-based services. — Persons with HIV/AIDS shall be afforded basic health services in all government hospitals, without prejudice to optimum medical care which may be provided by special AIDS wards and hospitals.

Sec. 23. Community-based services. — Local government units, in coordination and in cooperation with concerned government agencies, non-government organizations, persons with HIV/AIDS and groups most at risk of HIV infection shall provide community-based HIV/AIDS prevention and care services.

Sec. 24. Livelihood programs and trainings. — Trainings for livelihood, self-help cooperative programs shall be made accessible and available to all persons with HIV/AIDS. Persons infected with HIV/AIDS shall not be deprived of full participation in any livelihood, self-help and cooperative programs for reason of their health conditions.

Sec. 25. Control of sexually transmitted diseases. — The Department of Health, in coordination and in cooperation with concerned government agencies and non-government organizations shall pursue the prevention and control of sexually transmitted diseases to help contain the spread of HIV infection.

Sec. 26. Insurance for persons with HIV. — The Secretary of Health, in cooperation with the Commissioner of the Insurance Commission and other public and private insurance agencies, shall conduct a study on the feasibility and viability of setting up a package of insurance benefits and, should such study warrant it, implement an insurance coverage program for persons with HIV. The study shall be guided by the principle that access to health insurance is part of an individual’s right to health and is the responsibility of the State and of society as a whole.

ARTICLE V
MONITORING

Sec. 27. Monitoring program. — A comprehensive HIV/AIDS monitoring program or “AIDSWATCH” shall be established under the Department of Health to determine and monitor the magnitude and progression of HIV infection in the Philippines, and for the purpose of evaluating the adequacy and efficacy of the countermeasures being employed.

Sec. 28. Reporting procedures. — All hospitals, clinics, laboratories, and testing centers for HIV/AIDS shall adopt measures in assuring the reporting and confidentiality of any medical record, personal data, file, including all data which may be accessed from various data banks or information systems. The Department of Health through its AIDSWATCH monitoring program shall receive, collate and evaluate all HIV/AIDS related medical reports. The AIDSWATCH data base shall utilize a coding system that promotes client anonymity.

Sec. 29. Contact tracing. — HIV/AIDS contact tracing and all other related health intelligence activities may be pursued by the Department of Health: Provided, That these do not run counter to the general purpose of this Act: Provided, further, That any information gathered shall remain confidential and classified, and can only be used for statistical and monitoring purposes and not as basis or qualification for any employment, school attendance, freedom of abode, or travel.

ARTICLE VI
CONFIDENTIALITY

Sec. 30. Medical confidentiality. — All health professionals, medical instructors, workers, employers, recruitment agencies, insurance companies, data encoders, and other custodians of any medical record, file, data, or test results are directed to strictly observe confidentiality in the handling of all medical information, particularly the identity and status of persons with HIV.

Sec. 31. Exceptions to the mandate of confidentiality. — Medical confidentiality shall not be considered breached in the following cases:

(a) when complying with reportorial requirements in conjunction with the AIDSWATCH programs provided in Sec. 27 of this Act;

(b) when informing other health workers directly involved or about to be involved in the treatment or care of a person with HIV/AIDS: Provided, That such treatment or care carry the risk of HIV transmission: Provided, further, That such workers shall be obliged to maintain the shared medical confidentiality;

(c) when responding to a subpoena duces tecum and subpoena ad testificandum issued by a Court with jurisdiction over a legal proceeding where the main issue is the HIV status of an individual: Provided, That the confidential medical record shall be properly sealed by its lawful custodian after being double-checked for accuracy by the head of the office or department, hand delivered, and personally opened by the judge: Provided, further, That the judicial proceedings be held in executive session.

Sec. 32. Release of HIV/AIDS test results. — All results of HIV/AIDS testing shall be confidential and shall be released only to the following persons:

(a) the person who submitted himself/herself to such test;

(b) either parent of a minor child who has been tested;

(c) a legal guardian in the case of insane persons or orphans;

(d) a person authorized to receive such results in conjunction with the AIDSWATCH program as provided in Sec. 27 of this Act;

(e) a justice of the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court, as provided under subSec. (c) of this Act and in accordance with the provision of Sec. 16 hereof.

Sec. 33. Penalties for violations of confidentiality. — Any violation of medical confidentiality as provided in Sec.s 30 and 32 of this Act shall suffer the penalty of imprisonment for six (6) months to four (4) years, without prejudice to administrative sanctions such as fines and suspension or revocation of the violator’s license to practice his/her profession, as well as the cancellation or withdrawal of the license to operate any business entity and the accreditation of hospitals, laboratories or clinics.

Sec. 34. Disclosure to sexual partners. — Any person with HIV is obliged to disclose his/her HIV status and health condition to his/her spouse or sexual partner at the earliest opportune time.

ARTICLE VII
DISCRIMINATORY ACTS AND POLICIES

Sec. 35. Discrimination in the workplace. — Discrimination in any form from pre-employment to post-employment, including hiring, promotion or assignment, based on the actual, perceived or suspected HIV status of an individual is prohibited. Termination from work on the sole basis of actual, perceived or suspected HIV status is deemed unlawful.

Sec. 36. Discrimination in schools. — No educational institution shall refuse admission or expel, discipline, segregate, deny participation, benefits or services to a student or prospective student on the basis of his/her actual, perceived or suspected HIV status.

Sec. 37. Restrictions on travel and habitation. — The freedom of abode, lodging and travel of a person with HIV shall not be abridged. No person shall be quarantined, placed in isolation, or refused lawful entry into or deported from Philippine territory on account of his/her actual, perceived or suspected HIV status.

Sec. 38. Inhibition from public service. — The right to seek an elective or appointive public office shall not be denied to a person with HIV.

Sec. 39. Exclusion from credit and insurance services. — All credit and loan services, including health, accident and life insurance shall not be denied to a person on the basis of his/her actual, perceived or suspected HIV status: Provided, That the person with HIV has not concealed or misrepresented the fact to the insurance company upon application. Extension and continuation of credit and loan shall likewise not be denied solely on the basis of said health condition.

Sec. 40. Discrimination in hospitals and health institutions. — No person shall be denied health care service or be charged with a higher fee on account of actual, perceived or suspected HIV status.

Sec. 41. Denial of burial services. — A deceased person who had AIDS or who was known, suspected or perceived to be HIV-positive shall not be denied any kind of decent burial services.

Sec. 42. Penalties for discriminatory acts and policies. — All discriminatory acts and policies referred to in this Act shall be punishable with a penalty of imprisonment for six (6) months to four (4) years and a fine not exceeding Ten thousand pesos (P10,000.00). In addition, licenses/permits of schools, hospitals and other institutions found guilty of committing discriminatory acts and policies described in this Act shall be revoked.

ARTICLE VIII
THE PHILIPPINE NATIONAL AIDS COUNCIL

Sec. 43. Establishment. — The Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC) created by virtue of Executive Order No. 39 dated 3 December 1992 shall be reconstituted and strengthened to enable the Council to oversee an integrated and comprehensive approach to HIV/AIDS prevention and control in the Philippines. It shall be attached to the Department of Health.

Sec. 44. Functions. — The Council shall be the central advisory, planning and policy-making body for the comprehensive and integrated HIV/AIDS prevention and control program in the Philippines. The Council shall perform the following functions:

(a) Secure from government agencies concerned recommendations on how their respective agencies could operationalize specific provisions of this Act. The Council shall integrate and coordinate such recommendations and issue implementing rules and regulations of this Act. The Council shall likewise ensure that there is adequate coverage of the following:
 

(1) The institution of a nationwide HIV/AIDS information and education program;

(2) The establishment of a comprehensive HIV/AIDS monitoring system;

(3) The issuance of guidelines on medical and other practices and procedures that carry the risk of HIV transmission;

(4) The provision of accessible and affordable HIV testing and counselling services to those who are in need of it;

(5) The provision of acceptable health and support services for persons with HIV/AIDS in hospitals and in communities;

(6) The protection and promotion of the rights of individuals with HIV; and

(7) The strict observance of medical confidentiality.

(b) Monitor the implementation of the rules and regulations of this Act, issue or cause the issuance of orders or make recommendations to the implementing agencies as the Council considers appropriate;

(c) Develop a comprehensive long-term national HIV/AIDS prevention and control program and monitor its implementation;

(d) Coordinate the activities of and strengthen working relationships between government and non-government agencies involved in the campaign against HIV/AIDS;

(e) Coordinate and cooperate with foreign and international organizations regarding data collection, research and treatment modalities concerning HIV/AIDS; and

(f) Evaluate the adequacy of and make recommendations regarding the utilization of national resources for the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS in the Philippines.

Sec. 45. Membership and composition. — (a) The Council shall be composed of twenty-six (26) members as follows:

(1) The Secretary of the Department of Health;

(2) The Secretary of the Department of Education, Culture and Sports or his representative;

(3) The Chairperson of the Commission on Higher Education or his representative;

(4) The Director-General of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority or his representative;

(5) The Secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment or his representative;

(6) The Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development or his representative;

(7) The Secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government or his representative;

(8) The Secretary of the Department of Justice or his representative;

(9) The Director-General of the National Economic and Development Authority or his representative;

(10) The Secretary of the Department of Tourism or his representative;

(11) The Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management or his representative;

(12) The Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs or his representative;

(13) The Head of the Philippine Information Agency or his representative;

(14) The President of the League of Governors or his representative;

(15) The President of the League of City Mayors or his representative;

(16) The Chairperson of the Committee on Health of the Senate of the Philippines or his representative;

(17) The Chairperson of the Committee on Health of the House of Representatives or his representative;
(18) Two (2) representatives from organizations of medical/health professionals;

(19) Six (6) representatives from non-government organizations involved in HIV/AIDS prevention and control efforts or activities; and

(20) A representative of an organization of persons dealing with HIV/AIDS.

(b) To the greatest extent possible, appointment to the Council must ensure sufficient and discernible representation from the fields of medicine, education, health care, law, labor, ethics and social services;

(c) All members of the Council shall be appointed by the President of the Republic of the Philippines, except for the representatives of the Senate and the House of Representatives, who shall be appointed by the Senate President and the House Speaker, respectively;

(d) The members of the Council shall be appointed not later than thirty (30) days after the date of the enactment of this Act;

(e) The Secretary of Health shall be the permanent chairperson of the Council; however, the vice-chairperson shall be elected by its members from among themselves, and shall serve for a term of two (2) years; and

(f) For members representing medical/health professional groups and the six (6) non-government organizations, they shall serve for a term of two (2) years, renewable upon recommendation of the Council.

Sec. 46. Reports. — The Council shall submit to the President and to both Houses of Congress comprehensive annual reports on the activities and accomplishments of the Council. Such annual reports shall contain assessments and evaluation of intervention programs, plans and strategies for the medium- and long-term prevention and control program on HIV/AIDS in the Philippines.

Sec. 47. Creation of Special HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Service. — There shall be created in the Department of Health a Special HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Service staffed by qualified medical specialists and support staff with permanent appointment and supported with an adequate yearly budget. It shall implement programs on HIV/AIDS prevention and control. In addition, it shall also serve as the secretariat of the Council.

Sec. 48. Appropriations. — The amount of Twenty million pesos (P20,000,000.00) shall be initially appropriated out of the funds of the National Treasury. Subsequent appropriations shall be provided by Congress in the annual budget of the Department of Health under the General Appropriations Act.

ARTICLE IX
MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS

Sec. 49. Implementing rules and regulations. — Within six (6) months after it is fully reconstituted, the Council shall formulate and issue the appropriate rules and regulations necessary for the implementation of this Act.

Sec. 50. Separability clause. — If any provision of this Act is declared invalid, the remainder of this Act or any provision not affected thereby shall remain in force and effect.

Sec. 51. Repealing clause. — All laws, presidential decrees, executive orders and their implementing rules inconsistent with the provisions of this Act are hereby repealed, amended or modified accordingly.

Sec. 52. Effectivity. — This Act shall take effect fifteen (15) days after its publication in at least two (2) national newspapers of general circulation.
  

Approved: February 13, 1998

 

 

Another Blood Brother: Abdul

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HIV excuses no one

Abdul, NorMA execom for care support, is a 28 male who was diagnosed in 2011 and began his Anti-retroviral medication in 2013.

Abdul admitted he went through the darkest moments of his life due to his curiosity. “Yes, I am a Muslim but I am a human being and I make mistakes. Nakig-relasyon ko ug same sex, nakig-hilawas ug walay proteksyon. Wala man gud kaayo ko knowledge aning hiv (I was in a relationship with the same sex. I had unprotected sex. I didn’t have much knowledge about HIV),” Abdul said.

Abdul’s partner went abroad as a tourist to get a working visa early in 2011. “A month after he arrived there, he got sick and tested positive with HIV. Because of that I decided to get tested so I would know my status. Unlike others, I had depression first before I got the confirmation.”

In 2011, Abdul had two testing – VCT and at the Red Cross where he was told something was wrong with his blood. “I never thought of getting sad since it was my doing. There was no one to blame but me. Then, I realized that I needed to value my life and I needed to do something to continue living.”

Thus, Abdul decided to religiously practice Islam again as a Muslim who erred who needed to repent.

“Nangayo ako ug pasaylo sa Allah. Adtong 2011 to 2012, ok na sa akoa ang paglikay sa mga bawal sama sa illegal sex, dli pag inum ug mga bisyo tungod ky bawal pud kini sa Islam. I watched MMK’s ‘Pulang Laso’ in 2012 ug didto mihilak ko ug kusog ug nakamata ko angay pud diay nga i-update nko akong cd4 count (I asked Allah’s forgiveness. In 2011 to 2012, it was okay for me to avoid illegal sex, drinking and vices since these are prohibited in Islam. I watched MMK’s ‘Pulang Laso’ in 2012 and I cried so hard and realized that I should also get an update of my cd4 count),” Abdul shared.

Abdul went back to Davao City early in 2013 and had his cd4 count. From his initial cd4 500 it went down to 146 and so he started the ARV medication and never missed for almost a year now. His cd4 count has shot up to 493 already.

Abdul saw how his partner suffered until his death. “I had been there in his journey, it was so painful since he had been part of my life. His doctor advised me to take care.”

Abdul is grateful to Allah and believes that he is surviving now for a reason whether good or bad and furthered, “it’s Allah’s will and I have to accept it and move on. There is life after this condition and if there is life after death then there is nothing to worry.”

He thanked the peer support at NorMA since the members are supporting one another.

For him, it is difficult to end HIV, but he believes that if one follows goodness then HIV is impossible.

Accepting the situation in heart and mind coupled with knowledge, abstinence on sex and the thought that life goes on made Abdul disregard people’s reactions saying, “Naay sakit o wala (with or without disease) we will all die soon.”

”Let’s value our life. Life is short,” he said.

Let’s KEEP the LIGHT on for HIV. 

You are loved Abdul. Thank you for being part of my journey.

Thank you Sunstar for the Feature last IACMM 2014  

 

 

Who is Echo Richards?

It is my honor to introduce : Echo Richards.

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More coming out ( an excerpt from Sunstar feature ) 

NorMA’s execom for events Echo Richards is a 25-year-old male resident in Cagayan de Oro who was diagnosed in July 2013. He said engaging in vices like smoking, drinking, clubbing and sexual activities were his escape from insecurities.

“I thought before that being the cup of tea by everyone means beautiful and important,” Echo said.

His relationships with men were short-term. He was unfaithful to his past boyfriends.

“I ruined my body, the temple of God and I blamed myself. I used to think that I was once a person with lots of insecurities.

In May 2012, I was so sick and got almost bed-ridden for two weeks. “I had a gut feeling that I was one of them (PLHIV). Yet, I blamed it on depression instead. I was on denial. I was depressed for the longest time.”

In June of 2012, I was diagnosed with Buerger’s disease also known as thromboangitis obliterans which is a rare disease that blocks the blood vessels of the hands and feet. The following month, Echo had fever for almost two weeks. His doctor friend gave him a high dose of antibiotics. Then, in October 2012 he had orchitis, the swelling of testicles. Echo’s friend who is a nurse took care of him while he was in severe pain and stress that compelled him to stop working for a while.

Though 2012 brought him trouble, he remained optimistic that what he was going through had a meaning. One day, alone in his dark room, he cried his heart out and kept on praying to never be sick again.

In July 2013, he met a foreigner. Before the encounter began, the foreigner gave him a swab test. “Few minutes later, I got my confirmation: REACTIVE.”

“My world turned upside down. But, he assured me that I could still live like anyone else. I was relieved. We talked about my status. I didn’t shed a tear. He advised me on what to do and with that I conditioned my mind.”

Echo went to his closest friend and broke the news that he has been infected with HIV. His friend hugged him tight and he felt loved.
“I felt important. I am blessed having him. It wasn’t easy sleeping and waking up in distress from day the I assumed being positive. But on that day, I lived again. It was another chance HE gave me. An answered prayer. I flew to Manila for confirmation. My parents thought I left for a job offer.”

At the testing hub, I was already prepared for the result. It yielded positive. “In a matter of seconds, my world turned 360°. I had my base line in RITM Alabang with cd4 count of 237. Immediately, I talk to my elder sister living overseas. She broke down. I felt her. She was blaming somebody and even HIM. I reprimanded and comforted her that everything was gonna be fine. I assured her, that God will never give an obstacle if I can’t carry. Then she calmed down.”

Echo flew back again in Cagayan de Oro then finished a project.
Two days before flying back to Manila, he told his family about his situation. They hugged him.

“Inside me, I was crying. Once again, I felt loved and accepted. They gave me all I need including financial support.”

No boundaries

He realized his family’s support knows no boundaries.
He went and locked himself in his room and cried. “I am important. I am special.”

As he began his medication in Manila in October 2013, allergies surfaced. His fever was so high, weight dropped from 72 to 53 kilos.

“I turned so dark like almost purple. My calf and ankle were swollen. But I was so blessed to have housemates who knew my status, helped and supported me emotionally and psychologically,” Echo said.

Echo’s journey of support from friends to his family continued. It has strengthened him each day. In December 2013, a good friend of his visited him in Manila. She invited him and his housemates to her hotel. There, his friend assured him of much love and support. Before she left abroad, Echo and his friend chatted on Facebook. He was very emotional as his friend never turned her back on him.

During the holiday break in 2013, he flew back home and spent Christmas and New Year with his family and friends.

“It was beautiful and splendid. It was also heartbreaking to see my family left the parking lot as I entered the airport.”

And finally, Echo decided to come back here in March.

“I realized that there is no place like home. As long as I have my family and these great friends together with HIM, I am complete. There is nothing to hide. No masks. I am confident and secured of what I am and what I have.”

Second home

For Echo, NorMA is his second home.

“I found my new family among the members. Such group made my whole life different. The support I got from everyone in NorMA, aside from my family and friends, is a blessing. With them, I can be myself and relate to everyone. It is also an edge on my end to share my experiences with them and the things I’ve been through since medication.”

The HIV has made Echo loved himself more and vowed to live life to its most meaningful way. “My life never stopped when I acquired this status. In fact, I am a better man today and I am whole. I learned to love myself more than I used to appreciate my life. And I wanted to share this burning optimism to everyone in the group and among PLHIV.”

Echo believes that changed on perspective on PLHIV should start within “ourselves with HIS guidance and self-preservation is the moral I learned from this condition.”

To live life to the fullest with much love and care toward one another and self is Echo’s daily mantra.

Thank you for being part of the Execom for NORMA. I see a potential in you sis.

You are loved. Just continue what we have started.

 

One Brave Soul : Humphrey Gorricetta

It’s more than a year since I was diagnose of HIV. It was indeed a journey . A battle I’ve fought and a journey . After my diagnosis, I know for myself that I have a purpose. During those months of struggle and coping. I went online. Made my anonymous account and started my campaign – that was July 2013. I made this blog and it all started there. I’ve meet fellow Blood Brothers from social media sites and they became my best of friends now. Started my advocacy and I never stopped . Founded the Northern Mindanao Advocates this year and continuing our cause. 

One advocate that I do adore and hope to meet me very soon was Humphrey Gorriceta, A person living with HIV and my Blood Brother. 

Humphrey Gorriceta is one of the first Filipinos to publicly reveal his HIV-positive status after he was diagnosed in January 2008 while working as an operations supervisor in a business process outsourcing company in Manila.

Humphrey Gorriceta: “After disclosing to my family, everything changed for the better. I felt the bond of love and caring was strengthened. I started saying ‘I love you’ to my parents and siblings, which I felt uncomfortable doing before I came out.”

The 34-year-old says based on personal experience “people are more accepting when they HIV literate” and so, he has made it his life’s mission to educate his family, friends, people he meets in his daily life and people he has yet to meet about HIV.

– See more at: http://www.fridae.asia/gay-news/2010/11/12/10431.positive-voices-humphrey-gorriceta#sthash.YMxHXQ0s.dpuf

Last June 14, he had his interview from the Bottomline with Boy Abunda. It was really a brave dialogue. One of the interview that made me cry and made me realize many things in my journey.

I quote from him : ” Finding yourself, realization of second chance and living the best in life. “

“naiiyak ako sa mga magagandang bagay , its a good feeling. he stressed. 

He was asked by Mr. Boy Abunda for a message and what his feeling ” i feel sorry because our culture is sarado ( not openminded about what’s happening ) . I feel bad that cases is getting high. Lack of education, why?” 

To realize that life is life. Be heard and ASK. We must be proactive about this issue. 

I have so many quotable lines but this made me cry the most. He was asked who are you. 

“i am Humphrey , I am  living with HIV and I’m happy.”

Thank you Humphrey for being an inspiration. You move mountain and let us continue this battle for our Blood Brothers. We are here for a purpose. As you said, You found direction and you never say no to it. Proud of you. 

You are loved. 

GREY 

 

 

 

GRATEFUL for a year that was.

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Today, May 28th, 2014 marks my anniversary – as a Person Living with HIV. I am Grey Hu and this is my story.

Up to now, the pain was still fresh and I am indeed grateful for I Survived. I HOLD ON and chose to LIVE.

It’s been 365 days from the time I knew that I am HIV Positive.

                     Here is an excerpt from my interview from Sunstar for WAD ( World AIDS Day celebration last Dec. 1, 2013 )

to completely heal, Grey went to a vacation in one of the towns in the province to rest and get fresh air. There, he contemplated on his life’s journey. He lived each day. As he did, he prayed and contemplated on life. He slowly feels his spirit has been strengthened. – ( I can still recall this moment, I prayed hard and I ask GOD for a sign. I know HE was there seeing me in pain and suffering. I almost see the light . )

 He also read a lot about HIV-Aids. Slowly, it was sinking into him that what he was going through could be signs of being infected with HIV. ( one of the signs that opted me to be BRAVE. ) 

 During those days too, Grey felt being so loved by his family. It was the silver lining that gave him strength. It is the love of his family that moved him to get tested and to face the consequences of wasting some years in his life. ( I know I am loved, I can feel it and their presence is felt. But I need answers )

 “There were so many fears. I feared what the reaction of the family would be if I get tested ‘positive’ with HIV,” he shared.

 In May this year, Grey decided to get tested. He prayed before he went to the City Health. “I just prayed and asked the Lord to give me the strength I needed whatever the result would be. I went through pre-testing counseling before the HIV test,” he recounted. ( I visited the Cathedral and ask God , Thy will be done , I know HE has something for me. )

 The result came out in the afternoon. “When I found out I tested positive, so many things filled my head. I asked questions. The doctor admired the strength I showed because I didn’t breakdown. I prepared myself with the possibility.” (  I told my two best girlfriends, I cried during the disclosure and I was in panicked, I don’t know what to do. Tears pour out and I can’t help it. )

 Most of those who would hear they were ‘positive’ with HIV would always breakdown.

 I recall those moments because it made me on what I am now. A Strong, Brave and Loving Advocate. 

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To continue my mission, at this time I am forming a group. The NorMA or Northern Mindanao Advocates Society. ( excerpt from IACMM 2014, May 18. Sunstar Feature )

 He shared his story to open the eyes of those who are afflicted with HIV-AIDS and most especially to those who don’t have it.

 The group, with 30 members, wanted to call it N Society, but decided to name it NorMA and officially formed it on January 14, 2014. It is composed of 28 male and two females PLHIV under the guidance Mike Mahinay, of Alagad Mindanao, and Lerio Chua, also of Alagad Mindanao.

Grey had always dreamed of establishing a care support base for the PLHIV community in the city especially that most of those diagnosed couldn’t immediately tell their families of their situation.

NorMA will be there as an option or aid of Alagad Mindanao which is in the frontline of fighting HIV-AIDS in the country for more than two decades now.

 Grey said that forming NorMA was a challenge. However, he is optimistic that the desire of the other members to make a difference would propel them to expand in the days ahead. To expand in providing care support at its core to PLHIV in the city.

 “We have a vision and we will strive to get to it by starting it with baby steps to strengthen our goal and commitment to our vision. NorMA is a pure positive community aiming at becoming a health and wellness hub of PLHIV in the country to lengthen their lives while living to the fullest. Its identity will be kept undisclosed to reach more PLHIV who are not ready to come out yet.

 So far, Grey said, the group has been holding anonymous meetings to include doing yoga, zumba and soon to include acupuncture to toughen the immune system.

 “We strongly encourage other PLHIV who might be suffering in silence to join us and find this new home.”

 But the turning point of my life is this : Grey Hu has slowly opened his story not only to the public but to his father.- P a, forgive me for not telling you right away. I know this is really hard but I am your son and you will always be my father , Nothing will change that. I am GAY and this is me your son. Hope you can read this. I love you and I will always respect you. Forever I am grateful for your love. We may have differences but I salute you that you became and stand as a good father to us. 

 This is the moment that I have been waiting for. Now I can be myself and I am free. I am more loved.

 I know I am loved and so you are out there.

 You are loved,

 GREY HU

I am HIV positive, and I don’t blame anybody for it—not myself or anybody else.

Thank You Outrage- HULAGWAY Exhibit ( Tribute to IACMM )

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Thank you OUTRAGE MAGAZINE. 

#zeroHIVph Pagbantog Kagay-an – with Outrage Magazine as a media partner, and the Northern Mindanao Advocates (NORMA) – has launched “Hulagway: Buntogon Ta Ang HIV!”, a photo campaign that looks at providing face to the fight against the spread of HIV in the Philippines, as well as highlight the continuing discrimination and difficulties faced by people living with HIV (PLHIV).

The photo campaign was conceptualized supposedly “to break through inhibitions of the mind” by exposing not only people living with HIV (PLHIV) but also involving people who believe in the fight against HIV, including professionals, artists and pageant people and celebrities.

http://outragemag.com/pagbantog-kagay-launches-hulagway-buntogon-ta-ang-hiv/

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Keep the LIGHT on HIV – IACMM 2014

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Yesterday, the whole world celebrated 2014 International AIDS Candlelight Memorial and Mobilization (IACMM). Together with
MOCAN in cooperation with the CDO Local AIDS Council, Province of Misamis Oriental and Pagbantog Kagayan  – the 31st IACMM  May 18, 2014, 3 PM at the Provincial Capitol Grounds, Cagayan de Oro City was indeed an epic success. There was an interfaith prayer, many witness a testimony from a Person Living with HIV (PLHIV), and we form ourselves a human red ribbon while lighting a red candle to signify our support in the advocacy. 

It was my first time to join the celebration. It was heartfelt. Together with NORMA Execom, we witness and gave tribute to those who fought the battle for HIV and AIDS. It was also the first time for CDO to witness a video testimonial  from Manuel, PLHIV -” Preserving your healthy lifestyle can prolong your life “.

Humans need each other. Change the way we think and behave towards HIV and AIDS. Quoted from an interfaith prayer. 

 

212 cases in CDO quoted from DOH. Its fast and furious! With 14 year old as youngest and 70 year old as oldest – MSM ( Men having sex with men ) 

There was also a  song for PLHIV by Pagbantog Kagayan member. ” Hiv is real and its around. Be wise and abstain ” it was a Beautiful tribal reggae rendition.

HOPE or Paglaum! To go thru their lives , meaningful and productive! Let’s act together. No to stigma and Discrimination! quoted from the speech of Ms. Fritzie Estoque , MOCAN Chairperson. 

On that day also, we formally launched NORMA online thru the efforts of Sunstar CDO – Thanks to Ms. Grace Albasin. 

 

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Here is the feature article. 

http://www.sunstar.com.ph/cagayan-de-oro/feature/2014/05/18/keeping-light-hiv-343450

Keeping the light on HIV

Sunday, May 18, 2014

MORE than five months ago, Grey Hu, a person living with human immunodeficiency virus (PLHIV), told his story.

He shared his story to open the eyes of those who are afflicted with HIV-AIDS and most especially to those who don’t have it.

Grey Hu has slowly opened his story not only to the public but to his father.

Not only that, Grey together with the other PLHIV in the city have banded together and formed the Northern Mindanao Advocates Society (NorMA).

The group, with 30 members, wanted to call it N Society, but decided to name it NorMA and officially formed it on January 14, 2014. It is composed of 28 male and two females PLHIV under the guidance Mike Mahinay, executive director of Alagad Mindanao, and Lerio Chua, also of Alagad Mindanao.

Grey had always dreamed of establishing a care support base for the PLHIV community in the city especially that most of those diagnosed couldn’t immediately tell their families of their situation.

NorMA will be there as an option or aid of Alagad Mindanao which is in the frontline of fighting HIV-AIDS in the country for more than two decades now.

Grey said that forming NorMA was a challenge. However, he is optimistic that the desire of the other members to make a difference would propel them to expand in the days ahead. To expand in providing care support at its core to PLHIV in the city.

“We have a vision and we will strive to get to it by starting it with baby steps to strengthen our goal and commitment to our vision. NorMA is a pure positive community aiming at becoming a health and wellness hub of PLHIV in the country to lengthen their lives while living to the fullest. Its identity will be kept undisclosed to reach more PLHIV who are not ready to come out yet.

So far, Grey said, the group has been holding anonymous meetings to include doing yoga, zumba and soon to include acupuncture to toughen the immune system.

“Aside from being a group for care support, NorMA is home to blood brothers who need help and in the upcoming World Aids Day this year, it will hold various activities such as Hulagway Dos – a photoshoot for a cause, Project Oxygen 2.0 which is an art installation and give more trainings to reach out to other PLHIV through Alagad Mindanao,” Grey said.

To become a member of NorMA, a tested PLHIV must be screened by Alagad Mindanao and NorMA’s executive committee.

“We strongly encourage other PLHIV who might be suffering in silence to join us and find this new home.”

Today, May 18, the world holds the 2014 International AIDS Candlelight Memorial and Mobilization and advocates of HIV-AIDS will gather at the Provincial Capitol grounds at 3 p.m. to form themselves into human red ribbon while they light red candles to signify their support on stopping the spread of HIV-AIDS through massive information about it.

More coming out

NorMA’s execom for events Echo Richards is a 25-year-old male resident in Cagayan de Oro who was diagnosed in July 2013. He said engaging in vices like smoking, drinking, clubbing and sexual activities were his escape from insecurities.

“I thought before that being the cup of tea by everyone means beautiful and important,” Echo said.

His relationships with men were short-term. He was unfaithful to his past boyfriends.

“I ruined my body, the temple of God and I blamed myself. I used to think that I was once a person with lots of insecurities.

In May 2012, I was so sick and got almost bed-ridden for two weeks. “I had a gut feeling that I was one of them (PLHIV). Yet, I blamed it on depression instead. I was on denial. I was depressed for the longest time.”

In June of 2012, I was diagnosed with Buerger’s disease also known as thromboangitis obliterans which is a rare disease that blocks the blood vessels of the hands and feet. The following month, Echo had fever for almost two weeks. His doctor friend gave him a high dose of antibiotics. Then, in October 2012 he had orchitis, the swelling of testicles. Echo’s friend who is a nurse took care of him while he was in severe pain and stress that compelled him to stop working for a while.

Though 2012 brought him trouble, he remained optimistic that what he was going through had a meaning. One day, alone in his dark room, he cried his heart out and kept on praying to never be sick again.

In July 2013, he met a foreigner. Before the encounter began, the foreigner gave him a swab test. “Few minutes later, I got my confirmation: REACTIVE.”

“My world turned upside down. But, he assured me that I could still live like anyone else. I was relieved. We talked about my status. I didn’t shed a tear. He advised me on what to do and with that I conditioned my mind.”

Echo went to his closest friend and broke the news that he has been infected with HIV. His friend hugged him tight and he felt loved.
“I felt important. I am blessed having him. It wasn’t easy sleeping and waking up in distress from day the I assumed being positive. But on that day, I lived again. It was another chance HE gave me. An answered prayer. I flew to Manila for confirmation. My parents thought I left for a job offer.”

At the testing hub, I was already prepared for the result. It yielded positive. “In a matter of seconds, my world turned 360°. I had my base line in RITM Alabang with cd4 count of 237. Immediately, I talk to my elder sister living overseas. She broke down. I felt her. She was blaming somebody and even HIM. I reprimanded and comforted her that everything was gonna be fine. I assured her, that God will never give an obstacle if I can’t carry. Then she calmed down.”

Echo flew back again in Cagayan de Oro then finished a project.
Two days before flying back to Manila, he told his family about his situation. They hugged him.

“Inside me, I was crying. Once again, I felt loved and accepted. They gave me all I need including financial support.”

No boundaries

He realized his family’s support knows no boundaries.
He went and locked himself in his room and cried. “I am important. I am special.”

As he began his medication in Manila in October 2013, allergies surfaced. His fever was so high, weight dropped from 72 to 53 kilos.

“I turned so dark like almost purple. My calf and ankle were swollen. But I was so blessed to have housemates who knew my status, helped and supported me emotionally and psychologically,” Echo said.

Echo’s journey of support from friends to his family continued. It has strengthened him each day. In December 2013, a good friend of his visited him in Manila. She invited him and his housemates to her hotel. There, his friend assured him of much love and support. Before she left abroad, Echo and his friend chatted on Facebook. He was very emotional as his friend never turned her back on him.

During the holiday break in 2013, he flew back home and spent Christmas and New Year with his family and friends.

“It was beautiful and splendid. It was also heartbreaking to see my family left the parking lot as I entered the airport.”

And finally, Echo decided to come back here in March.

“I realized that there is no place like home. As long as I have my family and these great friends together with HIM, I am complete. There is nothing to hide. No masks. I am confident and secured of what I am and what I have.”

Second home

For Echo, NorMA is his second home.

“I found my new family among the members. Such group made my whole life different. The support I got from everyone in NorMA, aside from my family and friends, is a blessing. With them, I can be myself and relate to everyone. It is also an edge on my end to share my experiences with them and the things I’ve been through since medication.”

The HIV has made Echo loved himself more and vowed to live life to its most meaningful way. “My life never stopped when I acquired this status. In fact, I am a better man today and I am whole. I learned to love myself more than I used to appreciate my life. And I wanted to share this burning optimism to everyone in the group and among PLHIV.”

Echo believes that changed on perspective on PLHIV should start within “ourselves with HIS guidance and self-preservation is the moral I learned from this condition.”

To live life to the fullest with much love and care toward one another and self is Echo’s daily mantra.

HIV excuses no one

Abdul, NorMA execom for care support, is a 28 male who was diagnosed in 2011 and began his Anti-retroviral medication in 2013.

Abdul admitted he went through the darkest moments of his life due to his curiosity. “Yes, I am a Muslim but I am a human being and I make mistakes. Nakig-relasyon ko ug same sex, nakig-hilawas ug walay proteksyon. Wala man gud kaayo ko knowledge aning hiv (I was in a relationship with the same sex. I had unprotected sex. I didn’t have much knowledge about HIV),” Abdul said.

Abdul’s partner went abroad as a tourist to get a working visa early in 2011. “A month after he arrived there, he got sick and tested positive with HIV. Because of that I decided to get tested so I would know my status. Unlike others, I had depression first before I got the confirmation.”

In 2011, Abdul had two testing – VCT and at the Red Cross where he was told something was wrong with his blood. “I never thought of getting sad since it was my doing. There was no one to blame but me. Then, I realized that I needed to value my life and I needed to do something to continue living.”

Thus, Abdul decided to religiously practice Islam again as a Muslim who erred who needed to repent.

“Nangayo ako ug pasaylo sa Allah. Adtong 2011 to 2012, ok na sa akoa ang paglikay sa mga bawal sama sa illegal sex, dli pag inum ug mga bisyo tungod ky bawal pud kini sa Islam. I watched MMK’s ‘Pulang Laso’ in 2012 ug didto mihilak ko ug kusog ug nakamata ko angay pud diay nga i-update nko akong cd4 count (I asked Allah’s forgiveness. In 2011 to 2012, it was okay for me to avoid illegal sex, drinking and vices since these are prohibited in Islam. I watched MMK’s ‘Pulang Laso’ in 2012 and I cried so hard and realized that I should also get an update of my cd4 count),” Abdul shared.

Abdul went back to Davao City early in 2013 and had his cd4 count. From his initial cd4 500 it went down to 146 and so he started the ARV medication and never missed for almost a year now. His cd4 count has shot up to 493 already.

Abdul saw how his partner suffered until his death. “I had been there in his journey, it was so painful since he had been part of my life. His doctor advised me to take care.”

Abdul is grateful to Allah and believes that he is surviving now for a reason whether good or bad and furthered, “it’s Allah’s will and I have to accept it and move on. There is life after this condition and if there is life after death then there is nothing to worry.”

He thanked the peer support at NorMA since the members are supporting one another.

For him, it is difficult to end HIV, but he believes that if one follows goodness then HIV is impossible.

Accepting the situation in heart and mind coupled with knowledge, abstinence on sex and the thought that life goes on made Abdul disregard people’s reactions saying, “Naay sakit o wala (with or without disease) we will all die soon.”

”Let’s value our life. Life is short,” he said.

Let’s KEEP the LIGHT on for HIV. 

HUGS and LOVE

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Lucky to be Alive

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Another great day to start, and it’s the first Friday of the year. I woke up with the usual time I do. Stretched on my bed and greeted the day! Every time I woke up and open my eyes, I always told myself to be grateful on each new day. To be thankful for another life, another chance too.

As I was checking my phone, I came across an sms from an old Friend, it made me smile , he said”  You were lucky and blessed to be alive! “ Thank you for the kind words mem. I know I need to live , love and laugh more now. Time to let it go.

Indeed, I consider myself  very LUCKY. With this chance given to me and the life I have now. It was indeed a 360 of what I have become. I love my new self. I know I have the direction and I know the simple things that make me happy.

Cherish every moment of your life. Every Second counts and  the more you push yourself to be better the more you see the beauty of LIFE.

Leave your past behind, it’s the memories now that will linger. You’re past will be your lesson.

Albeit life is more LIFE to me and I still continue to chase my dreams – my passion.

I have never been this grateful in my lifetime. 

I turn to you

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“Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .””
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Seventh, Jingpusit37( mamamia), He was an avid fan of my post, from a very simple favorite in twitter. As far as I can remember, we talked about boys and other stuff. Then I started calling him ” mamamia! “. Instantly I found a good friend, a Mom as I always call him. I found parental guidance and maturity with Jing. We trade questions and silly thoughts in which really funny or contrary and it feels good to see I amazed him! Forever and For always will I treasure you ma.

Ma, I am grateful we’ve crossed ways here in cyberworld. Our connection is unexplainable. I found a Mom in you. Thank you for being one loved Mudra lol. I am so excited to see you and chat with you about anything , for sure that would be reel fun!

Eighth, positiveinapril ( dai ) , I always found comfort with I’m connecting to my fellow Bisaya, I just don’t know. We connect each other because we speak the same language and not by chance but by fate we became good friends. Wee hours of nonstop talking and exchange of ideas on some aspects of life. Thank you for being one of those person I want to treasure for life .

You’re wit and your warm aura plus your personality brightens me Dai. Thank you for that. I know I can turn to you. No pretense and doubts about who I was then. I am blessed I found a friend. I am excited to see you and laugh till we drop, it is yet to come and I am always here to answer your late night calls .

An advocate who cannot care for herself cannot – and should not – attempt to care and defend the right of others. – I learned this from Advocacy School and I am living with it.

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Pagbantog HIV: Putting back the spotlight on HIV and AIDS

By Maia Fortich-Poblete

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The movies And the Band Played On and It’s My Party introduced me to HIV and AIDS. Both movies were shown in the 90s, long after Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) were first discovered. I was still in high school when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognized AIDS and its cause (HIV) in 1981.

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Like many others, I did not understand what HIV and AIDS were all about. All I knew was that one could get infected by having sex with different partners, particularly with partners of the same sex. I was afraid of people with HIV and AIDS, but I was sure I was safe because I wasn’t like them. My young mind could not go beyond that understanding. But after watching the movie, everything changed. My whole perception of HIV and AIDS changed. I began to respect and admire persons living with HIV (PLHIV).

THE STIGMA

Society treats people infected with HIV as outcasts. They’re treated with disgust and looked down on. Our society crucifies PLHIV. This is the stigma that every person living with HIV has to face every single day. As a result, many of them hide, run away, and never leave the house. Many of them decide to simply fade away. Many feel useless, unloved, and unimportant.

But persons living with HIV are humans like us. They have emotions like us. They deserve to laugh and enjoy life like us. They deserve respect, especially because what they are going through is not easy. Because we do not understand their suffering and their pain.

All the stigma tied to HIV and AIDS is a result of ignorance. A lot of people believe that by merely hugging or shaking the hands of a person with HIV, he will already be infected. Many stubbornly choose to believe that persons living with HIV are dirty and should, therefore, be shunned by society. All these because of ignorance.

Once people become aware of what HIV and AIDS are really about, the stigma will die down. It won’t dissipate easily like raindrops, but people will begin to understand. And, slowly but surely, PLHIV will no longer need to hide behind their shadows.

PAGBANTOG HIV

This is the reason why the group Pagbantog-Kagayan came up with Pagbantog HIV, a World AIDS Day celebration. The group, which was formed right after the bombing that rocked CDO last August, decided it was high time that Kagay-anons were encouraged to open their minds to the issue of HIV and AIDS. Several activities were drawn up and partnerships were formed.

So, together with ABS-CBN and Limketkai Center, Pagbantog HIV was unveiled. The celebration actually started a day earlier- on November 30 – as an HIV Forum, with students as participants, was held at the 2nd floor of Limketkai Mall. Speakers Michael Ray and Atty. Sam Tan shared their knowledge about HIV and AIDS and the Philippine AIDS Law to the eager-to-learn and extra participative audience.

Early the next morning, on December 1st, participants from different sectors of society (including members of the LGBT community) trooped to the Capitol Grounds for the HIV March. The march ended at Limketkai Center, where awards and certificates of participation were given out to the participants.

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Later in the day, around 11:00 AM, the Hulagway Photo Exhibit was unveiled. Hulagway is a gathering of some of Cagayan de Oro’s best photographers, artists, and professionals. Ed Abella, Jessie Villegas, Glenn Palacio, and Bo Ju; along with the hair-and-make up team of Dandy Roa, shot portraits of Kagay-anons who share the group’s passion for HIV/AIDS awareness. Each photo was designed to highlight the importance of HIV and AIDS awareness. You’d know once you look in the eyes or the minute you notice all the red ribbons. The photos captured the attention of the crowd, which was exactly what the group wanted: to make some noise – any kind of noise.

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The photo exhibit was followed by a yoga session facilitated by Yoga Kagayan, The Art of Living, and Body Basics. This was for the launching of The Project Oxygen, a support group for persons living with HIV. Headed by Stephen Christian Quilacio, the group gathers together not only PLHIV, but also activists and supporters of HIV and AIDS awareness. The Project Oxygen is affiliated with The Art of Living and Pagbantog-Kagayan.

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Around 2pm, the Pagbantog HIV concert started – and lasted throughout the afternoon until the early evening. CDO’s finest artists rendered their services for free as they sang, danced, and shared stories that paint real pictures of HIV/AIDS. The singers sang about hope, something that every PLHIV needs. There were also messages of friendship, acceptance, and love.

Five artists delivered monologues that pictured different situations PLHIV goes through. One monologue showed an unsuspecting pregnant wife whose husband was recently diagnosed with HIV. The husband does not know how to tell the wife and his mother. A gay beautician spoke about how a friend – a PLHIV – felt when he lost friends after finding out he was infected with HIV. A good looking model talks about his HIV-infected partner; how he fears his partner might give up and let him go. Finally, there’s the health worker who has nine years of rich experiences filled with many colorful and painful stories of HIV and AIDS.

All these stories wove the music, songs, and dances into one big advocacy: that HIV is not just anything. It is something we should all know about. It is something we should all be aware of – so that there will be no more fear and no more stigma.

THE FUTURE

Unta, nine years from now, wala na’y HIV (Nine years from now, I hope there’ll be no more HIV).” This is the health worker’s last line in her monologue. Her wish and hope. It is Pagbantog-Kagayan and The Project Oxygen’s hope, too. This is why there will be morePagbantog HIVs and World AIDS Day celebrations in Cagayan de Oro.

Next year will be a bigger one; with more activities, more participants, and definitely more noise. For this is the only way to awaken the people to the reality of HIV and AIDS.

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