After listening to Mr. Johnson from ILO, we also had the opportunity to hear from Ms. “Bai” BAGASAO, Teresita Marie P. o f UNAIDS, she is the Country Coordinator for the Philippines. When I saw her the first time, I thought of her as a lady of refinement and good culture; the more I agreed to myself when she started talking about t he agency. She is so “mahinhin” and “mayumi” in Tagalog. These attributes did not make her hold back on making her point about why is HIV infection and AIDS becoming an exponentially increasingly important subject matter and a national issue for our country. Here are a few facts for you to picture how urgent we need to act on this as a nation the fastest we can.
For a span of only one year, there is a 5,000 count increase of people living with HIV and these are only the reported cases. Ms. Bai noted that the problem with HIV/AIDS is its silence. With the norms our culture has, one person who knows he/she is infected will face a critical decision to accept and come out as such or remain hidden which will in turn result to preventable infections. It’s hard to halt the spread of this viral infection if it remains unidentified since it is asymptomatic for a long period of time, as long as 10 years.
Now, when Ms. Bai was showing us a few charts and graphs, it was very alarming to see that the cause of the spread is 1. Unprotected Sex and 2. Sharing of needles among illegal drug users. The first is widespread in the National Capital Region and the latter is most commonly charted in the Cebu region. She explained to us that the issue of unprotected sex is apparently more concentrated to Men having sex with Men (MSM), especially in the Metro. It’s frightening to think nowadays that the liberation of Society’s sexual preferences and casuality is causing irreversible damages to the lives of many, even the innocent. The group was also reminded that these men who have sex with the same gender are not necessarily single or out socially as homosexuals. They might have wives, families and friends who are not even aware and are the most vulnerable of being infected. In terms of infection, there are three main types that HIV can be passed on: a. Direct transmission (blood) b. Sexual intercourse c. Mother-to-baby. It has been documented that infected people who are identified the earliest have good chances of extending quality life, this is because HIV is a retro virus and we already have anti-retroviral drugs available. Although they don’t eradicate the disease, these medications maintain the viral count on our body at the level where we do not develop the infection into a full blown disease.
In the Philippines, there is much to learn and much to do about HIV/AIDS. For one, screening is not mandated by the government another is, the social stigma of being exposed to be as one having casual or unprotected sex is a major issue for a person, what more if this would make him/her identified as an infected person. Being uninformed or misinformed creates different stigmas to society that does not help solve the problem at all. My take on this is, I call out everybody to not only practice safe sex but also have the open mind to accept and realize that this is not only a matter of health. It is also a social, political, economical, psychological and moreover a very intimate issue. My point exactly is, if you are not infected somebody you know or close to you might be or probably will be and the best way to stop this is be an advocate of its prevention.
Be involved…. Be committed……