In the face of rising cases of HIV infections in the country, President Rodrigo Duterte late last year signed into law Republic Act No 11166 otherwise known as the Philippine HIV and Policy Act of 2018.
With this new law, the Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC), an attached agency under the Department of Health, was reconstituted; giving them responsibility for the overall implementation of the country's the AIDS Medium Term Plan, a 6-year plan to prevent and control the spread of HIV and AIDS.
The law also put the Department of Health to task with the creation of a program wherein free and accessible treatment and medication to all persons living with HIV and AIDS shall be provided, with public and private hospitals to serve as treatment hubs.
No doubt, the signing of this new law couldn’t have come at a more crucial time, especially in the face of the continuing and alarming rise of HIV cases in the country. Official numbers from the Department of Health Epidemiology Bureau shows that 1,092 newly confirmed HIV-positive individuals have been reported to the HIV/AIDS ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP). This was higher compared with the same period last year, with 17% having clinical manifestations of advanced HIV infection at the time of diagnosis. 94 % of the newly diagnosed were male, with the median age at 27 years old.
This spike in HIV cases has been attributed to a lack of condom use and also in part due to insufficient sex education. It cannot be denied then that the need for safe sex in the Philippines is real and immediate, and that the government simply cannot address this need alone without the help of NGOs and private sector partners.
It is against this scenario that Durex condoms decided to step in and do their part as private sector stakeholder, with the launch of a multi-pronged HIV awareness campaign, , #AlwaysComePrepared.
Apart from working closely with the Department of Health in producing, easy-to-read educational pamphlets on HIV, Durex has been conducting town hall sessions held in various universities to educate on the relevance of protection coupled with free, voluntary HIV tests. To date, they have visited such schools as the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University, Lyceum of the Philippines, Far Eastern University, Polytechnic University, St. Louis University in Baguio, and National University, where the response has been nothing short of overwhelming: over 40,000 condom samples have already been distributed thus far, while the interactions during the Q and A sessions with resource persons have been nothing short of lively and engaged.
Similarly, the campaign roadshow also made its way to the BPO industry, by bringing the campaign to the different offices of Teleperformance in Manila. Here, 40,076 employees were reached and 45, 000 condom samples were distributed.
Indeed, as the issue of HIV and AIDS remains to be a major issue in the Philippines, one that simply cannot be ignored, the support of private sector stakeholders such as Durex can make a big impact in addressing the matter head on.