Community leaders team up against HIV/AIDS
By Mong Jimenez, Field and Emergency Communications Specialist
Worldwide, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) have already affected millions of lives. In the Philippines alone, more than 40,000 individuals have been diagnosed with the disease according to records from 1984 to 2017, killing more than 2,000 people. The Department of Health also states that the country has 30 new HIV cases daily and more alarmingly more than half or 19 are 15-24 years old.
The fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS has been a long and grueling one, and it is not showing signs of stopping anytime soon. Many government agencies and NGOs have already supported actions to prevent the further spread of this disease. Even specialized organizations have been formed just to solely implement HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention activities.
In the municipality of Moalboal, a tourist hotspot in the southern part of the Cebu province, a new group has emerged after leaders from different community sectors forged their leadership and influences to form an awareness taskforce against HIV/AIDS.
The Moalboal Community Hope Action Team against HIV/AIDS was formed last May 2016. World Vision, a child-focused and community-based NGO, trained leaders through the Channels of Hope (CoH) workshop. The said workshop equipped and empowered the participants to act especially on prevention, care and advocacy for people living with HIV/AIDS. Inspired by the CoH workshop, the participants coming from Moalboal then formed their action team. The group consists of leaders from various churches and faith-based organization, local health unit, civic society groups, the academe, women groups and community volunteers founded or based in the said municipality.
“I believe that HIV and AIDS is a very serious threat in our country especially in rural areas where health facilities are not that readily available,” says Junrel Tudlas, a church leader and a member of the action team. “But I even strongly believe that it takes a community to prevent the rise of this disease.”
Based on a latest report this year, Central Visayas continues to be part of the Top 5 Regions in the country with the highest number of HIV and AIDS cases. Moalboal has reported cases but there is a strong assumption that the municipality has more undocumented cases since the nearest testing center is in Cebu City, 2 to 3 hours away. And as a budding tourist destination, foreign and local visitors come and go all year round.
The team has started its awareness activities in major schools and community groups. Armed with updated knowledge and comprehensive presentations, the members reach out to more people, especially the youth. They also organized free testing in close coordination with the DOH. The team has raised fund for production of Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials and to support other related activities.
“We did a baseline study in Moalboal before we implemented the CoH and we found out that there is a low awareness rate about HIV and AIDS among the youth population,” shares Eureka P. Fuentes, Health and Nutrition Specialist of World Vision. “We want not just to inform them with the right knowledge but to also change their risky behavior and maintain positive and enriching relationships addressing stigma and discrimination associated with this disease.
During the team’s workshops, participants learn about the basic information of HIV/AIDS. They also learn how to prevent spreading the disease. They are now more aware of the existing referral or support systems in the community.
The team is also receiving positive feedback from the community. James, a participant, cites that the workshop inspired him to become an advocate as well. “This is my first time to attend to this kind of workshop and I want to share what I have learned to my friends,” says the 15-year-old high school student.
World Vision has also guided the formation of more action teams in many places in the country to address not just HIV/AIDS but also other social issues like maternal/child health and child protection.—World Vision/July 18, 2017