First HIV/AIDS treatment hub in Mimaropa launched in Palawan

interphoto_1334796130PUERTO PRINCESA CITY – With the “alarming” increase in the HIV/AIDS cases in Palawan and Mimaropa, the first treatment hub in the province and in the Mindoro-Marinduque-Romblon-Palawan region was formally launched Monday at the Ospital ng Palawan (OnP) here.

“This was put up to educate, disseminate, control, and prevent the spread of the disease in Palawan and Mimaropa,” said Dr. Jose Coloma, head of OnP’s HIV-AIDS Core Team (HACT).

Coloma said the escalation of HIV-AIDS cases in the province was “alarming.”

Fourteen “diagnosed and confirmed” individuals were identified in the province, of which four died since 2011, primarily due to absence of accessible treatment hub, said HACT chief.

In December 2014, meanwhile, HACT screened 72 individuals, of which 34 declared “positive but not confirmed,” because of tracking problem as patients gave in to self-discrimination as they perceived social stigma.

Iba ‘yung rapid test reactive ka, iba ‘yung confirmed ka. ‘Pag reactive-positive ka, it doesn’t mean you have already a full-blown HIV; no, you have to confirm that (It is different when you’re rapid test reactive, and when you are positive. It does not mean you have already a full-blown HIV; no, you have to confirm that),” Coloma explained.

Coloma said that with the installation of the center, which was in line with the National HIV-AIDS Testing Week, the patients would not need to go to Metro Manila to be treated.

Since it is first in Mimaropa, they too, expect patients from across the region.

Dr. Eduardo Janairo, regional director of Department of Health (DOH)-Mimaropa, encouraged Puerto Princesans to help eradicate the social stigma attached to the fatal HIV-AIDS and make testing a norm.

Hindi ibig sabihin na magpapa-test kayo ay positive na kayo agad; ang gusto natin maliwanagan ang lahat at magkaroon ng kapangyarihang-impormasyon na ang ating pangangatawan ay libre sa HIV-AIDS (It does not mean that when you have yourself tested, you are already positive; what we want is to enlighten and empower everyone with information that their bodies are free from HIV-AIDS),” said Janairo, adding the treatment was for free.

Just Sunday, Janairo’s group visited entertainment establishments and communities within downtown Puerto Princesa, and “surprisingly” gathered over 40 individuals mostly from  the community of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transexual (LGBT), who volunteered themselves to be tested.

Meanwhile, Janairo said the treatment center would expect to also cater to domestic and foreign tourists as Palawan is a tourism hub. DOH-Mimaropa is also planning to turn the provincial hospital to a regional medical center, he added.

The launch was made possible in collaboration with Regional Health Office 4-Mimaropa, and in partnership with the City and Provincial Health Office.

To sustain the awareness campaign, Coloma further said he was thinking of “training some barangay workers to explain HIV-AIDS in confidentiality.”

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