ADB Supporting Philippines in Combating Spread of HIV/AIDS

Financed by the Swedish government, a project sponsored by an Asian Development Bank was launched during a workshop on July 2, 2007 in partnership with the government’s Department of Health, members of the private sector and non-government organization to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS by raising awareness among high-risk groups in the Philippines. 
The project aims to improve the effectiveness of the national and local response to the epidemic among groups considered high-risk, such as intravenous drug users and overseas Filipino workers, in particular seafarers. It also provides support to the Department of Health in developing more practical approaches and interventions to help these high-risk groups.
There were around 60 workshop participants who shared their experiences, lessons learned and challenges in working with these high-risk groups. ADB Philippines Country Director Thomas Crouch and Health Undersecretary Ethelyn P. Nieto attended the workshop.
The project has two components. The first involves the development of strategies to reduce harm caused by the disease and to test those strategies. The second involves building up capacity for HIV prevention and care for overseas Filipino workers, especially seafarers.
The ADB assistance will be delivered through a team of consultants fielded by Pacific Rim Innovation and Management Exponents, Inc. (PRIMEX) along with two local non-government organizations, Action for Health Initiatives, Inc. and the Remedios AIDS Foundation.
As of the end of last year, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS estimated that globally, there were approximately 40 million people living with HIV, and 12,000 new infections were occurring each day. Since the first recorded case of HIV in 1984, the Philippines has maintained an HIV prevalence rate of less than 0.1% among adults. The Department of Health’s National Epidemiology Center estimates there were approximately 11,200 people with HIV as of the end of 2005. However, as of April this year, the national registry showed that there were 2,818 people living with HIV, indicating that only one in five persons could be aware of his or her HIV status.
The Department of Health has conceded that it cannot do the job of combating the spread of HIV/AIDS alone and recognizes the need to collaborate with other government agencies, international organizations, non-government organizations, civil society, and co-members in the Philippine National AIDS Council. The ability to reach out and assist overseas Filipino workers, on the other hand, is hampered by inadequate referral systems and limited access to HIV services, such as voluntary counseling and treatment.

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