Monday, December 05, 2016

JOB OPENING: Administration and Finance Assistant for Regional City Based HIV Testing Campaign: TestXXX


LoveYourself Inc. in partnership with APCOM, is looking for an Administration and Finance Assistant for Regional City Based HIV Testing Campaign: Test MNL.

APCOM has been engaged in responding to the urgent needs of MSM in Asia and the Pacific at both a policy and programmatic level. At a multi-stakeholder consultation on “Ending AIDS in Asia- Re-strategizing the MSM response” held 21-22 January 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand, UNAIDS RST-AP was tasked to coordinate a regional ‘Call to Action’. As a result, UNAIDS, UNDP and APCOM collaborated on a special MSM feature in the HIV in Asia Pacific: UNAIDS Report 2013 calling on partners to better “focus, invest, empower and mobilize” to provide innovative, tailored programming and effective responses to at- risk communities.

To ensure sustained action in response to the ‘Call to Action’, In 2013 APCOM received seed funding from UNAIDS and further assistance for Population Services International (PSI) Thailand to implement a pilot project for Regional City-Based HIV Testing Campaign: TestXXX, called TestBKK. APCOM would also like to roll this out to other cities in the region such as Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, Jakarta in Indonesia and Manila in the Philippines.

LoveYourself Inc. partnership with APCOM, is looking for a for Administration and Finance Officer for Regional City Based HIV Testing Campaign: Test MNL.

ESSENTIAL JOB FUNCTIONS:
  • Reports directly to LoveYourself Executive Director and provides support to the leaders of the organization (LoveYourself, Inc.) by performing administrative tasks, including, executing, organizing, systematizing tasks and processes, in the day-to-day operations and projects of the organization
  • Carry out administrative, secretarial and bookkeeping duties, including preparation of check disbursements, coordinating and following-up on reimbursement and liquidation reports, and recording all financial transactions ensuring that required support documents are complete;
  • Record all financial transactions of the program in the book of accounts (i.e. CBD, CRB, GJB, GL);
  • Reconcile bank account, advances, taxes, government remittances and other accounts in relation to the program;
  • Prepare project staff payroll, including individual employee salary ledger;
  • Maintain records and inventory control of project assets and ensure that all office equipment and services are appropriately maintained;
  • Provide administrative and logistical support to other program staff and partners for organizing activities at the local level; and
  • Coordinate, provide and obtain required information in a tactful manner
  • Assists in coordinating event space and provide logistical support, arranging for food and beverage, arranging for audiovisual equipment, ordering or buying supplies for trainings and special events
  • Prepare invitation letters for partner organizations
  • Check if all MOU (memorandum of understanding) or MOA (memorandum of agreement) are updated
  • Attend to government requirements (BIR, SEC, DSWD)
  • Perform other functions as assigned by the Executive Director
MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS
  • Education: College graduate with a degree in Business Administration or Accountancy or other relevant courses.
  • Work Experience: Work experience: Has at least 6 months to 1-year experience of work similar to job function stated. Fresh graduates are welcome to apply.
  • Other Professional Skills: Proficient in oral and written English business communication; operation of computer and other ICT equipment; and knowledge in the use of most Microsoft Office applications; and familiar with data backup procedures.
  • Other Desirable Qualities: Willing to work beyond standard working hours; can work with minimal supervision; highly trainable; detail oriented; can work well with a team; licensed driver, with leadership potential and gender sensitive.


FAIR HIRING POLICY

LoveYourself Inc. is an equal opportunity employer and highly encourages applicants from the gay, bisexual, and transgender community who have experience in non-profit and community development work.

SUBMISSION PROCEDURE

Interested applicants should submit an expression of interest (EOI) letter together with the applicant’s CV/resume, via e-mail to icade@loveyourself.ph and cc: la@loveyourself.ph on or before December 9, 2016 (Friday), 5:00 pm (PH time), addressed to Mr. Ronnivin G. Pagtakhan Executive Director of LoveYourself Inc. technical review of documents will be done and the most qualified applicant will be contracted by LoveYourself Inc.

Technical review of documents, phone and face-to-face interviews, and written exam will be facilitated and the most qualified applicant will be contracted by LoveYourself. Please take note that this is for immediate hiring to be based in Metro Manila with expected start date on the 3rd week of December, 2016.

For the hired applicant, the following documents will need to be prepared and submitted within two weeks upon hiring: SSS, TIN, Pag-IBIG and Philhealth numbers, police and NBI clearances, and medical certificate.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

#HackingHIV: LoveYourself and PrEP Pilipinas Launch New HIV Intervention Program

By: Kris Tangco

HIV awareness and advocacy organization LoveYourself hosted #HackingHIV as part of its launch activities to introduce PrEP, an HIV prevention method, in the Philippines. In conjunction with project PrEP Pilipinas, in-charge of introducing the innovation into the country, the event was held at Greenbelt 3’s myCinema in Makati City last 29 November.

What is PrEP?


PrEP, which stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a biomedical intervention for HIV infection in the form of a pill. The drug is a combination of Tenofovir and Emtricitabine and works by blocking HIV enzymes, preventing the virus from establishing an infection. Generally known by its brand name, “Truvada”, the pill is taken before possible exposure to HIV with a recommended dosage ranging from 100 mg Emtricitabine and 150 mg Tenofovir tablets up to 200 mg Emtricitabine and 300 mg Tenofovir tablets depending on the age and body weight of the client[1].

In contrast to antiretroviral drugs that are prescribed by the doctor after confirmation of an HIV infection or vaccines that are administered to the body once or periodically, PrEP is taken on a daily basis for a sustained period of time. Intermittent intake of the drug reduces its effectiveness.

A number of clinical researches show that consistent use of PrEP lowers the risk of HIV infection up to 92% compared to those who didn’t take the pill[2]. It is important to note that intake of the pill must be supplemented by safe and protected sex (i.e. through the proper use of condoms and water-based lubricant) and is not a ticket to engage in unsafe sex practices.

Timeliness of PrEP in the Philippines

The Philippines stands out as a sore thumb in a global scenario of declining or plateauing rates of HIV infection. A record 819 new cases were reported by the Department of Health’s Epidemiology Bureau for October 2016, the highest monthly figure since 2014. From a rate of 9 infections daily in 2012, the figure has tripled to 26 daily infections in 2016.

Male-to-male sex ranked highest as the method of HIV transmission. However, the number of cases among females has also been increasing, concomitant to the rise of cases in mother-to-child transmission. In addition, the age group with the biggest proportion of cases has become younger, with the 25-34-year old age group comprising the majority of infections, followed by 15-24 year old group. This trend highlights the youth as most vulnerable for infections and most in need for interventions related to HIV prevention.

Behind the Scenes: PrEP Pilipinas

“We need more interventions. More than 50% of men who are having sex with men (MSMs) are not using condoms”, says Christopher M. Lagman, senior founder of LoveYourself and co-primary investigator of the PrEP Pilipinas Project as he spoke to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, otherwise known as UNAIDS, in an interview earlier this month[3]. In the light of the situation of condom use and the rise of HIV cases in the Philippines, introducing PrEP as an additional intervention known to further reducing one’s chances of getting infected by HIV is more than timely, with MSMs and transgenders, being sectors of the population most vulnerable to infection, as most likely to benefit from the prevention method.

PrEP Pilipinas started in 2015 as a project for investigating and PrEParing for the rollout of PrEP distribution programs in the country. With the help of funding from organizations such as The Foundation for AIDS Research, also known as amfAR, the project’s progress has then since led to #HackingHIV, a launch of the program held together with LoveYourself. Actual enrolment for the PrEP program will begin in the first quarter of 2017 through LoveYourself clinics, LoveYourself Anglo along Shaw Boulevard and LoveYourself Uni just next to Gil Puyat LRT station. The organization has also been working on the procurement of tenofovir/emtricitabine PrEP through pharmaceutical producer, Mylan India.

Another First for LoveYourself

The year 2016 has indeed been a year of beginnings for the non-profit organization, now comprised of more than 700 volunteers at the forefront of HIV awareness and advocacy in the country. Life coaching services to people living with HIV (PLHIVs) were launched at the start of the year, marking LoveYourself’s transition into a treatment hub.

Since its founding in 2011, the organization has embarked on a campaign of positivity and acceptance to fight the stigma associated with HIV. With self-worth as the overarching value of its message, LoveYourself has been encouraging everyone to get themselves tested and is inviting everyone to “dare, care, and share”.

The launch of the life coaching program is a bold step by the organization to extend its services from HIV testing to PLHIV support, further adding to the comprehensiveness of HIV-related services it is able to provide. Through its partners, the Department of Health (DOH), the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine (RITM), and Pilipinas Shell Foundation, LoveYourself is able to provide all these services for free through its clinics at LoveYourself Anglo and LoveYourself Uni.

Now, LoveYourself will be at the helm of PrEP programs in the Philippines as the chosen venue for PrEP Pilipinas’ demonstration project. PrEP will be distributed in LoveYourself clinics, augmented with counseling and HIV education. All those getting tested at the LoveYourself clinics will be given information about PrEP  in addition to the basic HIV101 modules being conducted by its counselors.

In the Frontline of the Battle

#HackingHIV was attended by representatives from social media and publications including Rappler and Team Magazine who were delighted by the wealth of information presented by the evening’s speakers. LoveYourself senior founders, Vinn Pagtakhan and Chris Lagman talked about LoveYourself’s history, initiatives, and its volunteers, as well as the different aspects and the current progress of PrEP Pilipinas, while Dr. Rosanna Ditangco, research chief of RITM AIDS Research Group (RITM-ARG), gave the audience a primer about PreP.

Dr. Gundo Weiler, country representative of the World Health Organization (WHO) also gave a talk on the current worldwide situation of HIV infections, warning that “Most MSMs in the Philippines are at risk [of getting infected by the virus].” The WHO representative also emphasized the need for “key populations to rise and take control of their own health” and those in the health sector and in HIV advocacy groups to “give the means for the population to take control of their health.”

LoveYourself and PrEP Pilipinas together with its partners in the medical field, DOH-RITM and WHO, are hoping that PreP intervention will aid in reducing the number of HIV infections in the country, and that programs aimed at distribution to and education of clients regarding proper administration of the drug will be adopted by other clinics in the country.

By pioneering PrEP and taking steps to educating and inculcating awareness to the public, LoveYourself posits itself at the frontline of the battle against HIV/AIDS in the country by adopting an innovation with the hope of lowering incidences of HIV infection.

Event Notes by Diego Rozul
Photos taken by Diego Rozul and from Independent.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

HIVisions - HIV/AIDS, the Roman Catholic Church of the Philippines, and moving Christianity forward

The HIV crisis has gone on for four decades, and for four decades the world has struggled against it. Doctors, scientists, educators, policy makers, writers, artists -- people of all walks and all colors have, in their own ways, sought to make sense of this crisis and its relationship with society. From citizens to states, from medicine to prayer, from cures to cries for reform, people’s visions of how to respond to the crisis are as diverse as the people who bear its scars. The goal of this series is to give you a glimpse of these visions: the roles people of different passions and disciplines have played in this crisis that, as of March 2016 as recorded by the Department of Health’s Epidemiology Bureau, is infecting 25 Filipinos daily

By Jan Gabriel CastaƱeda

In the poverty-ridden corners of India’s Ganjam district, a man is robbed by his own brothers; when the man turns to authorities for help, they turn on him instead and “beat him up until he vomited blood." At another district, in Gonda, the unconscious bodies of a couple and their child are dragged to a nearby field and promptly set on fire (The suspects, relatives of the father, claimed it was a suicide.) During a raid at a small office in in Kyrgyzstan, a not uncommon occurrence among non-government organizations, police forces “threatened to rape all the people inside”[3]. And in clinics across Swaziland, near the eastern coast of Sub-Saharan Africa, people are driven off “like small devils”[4] – some driven further off, into suicide. The eulogies grow ever numerous.

To any Christian, these stories do not simply horrify: these monstrous footnotes of world history draw from a deeper well of terror, so reminiscent of the history of their own faith. Suffering was rooted as firmly as their trust in God’s love: the martyrs knew blood, fire, and rape very well, and these traumas in Christianity’s infancy established a bond between faith and pain that has endured for two thousand years. They were marked in blood with the sign of the cross, for all the world to see.

But the martyrs of Ganjam, Gonda, Kyrgyzstan, and Swaziland were marked for a wholly different reason. Their bodies were laid to rest not with the sign of the cross, but with the bloody ink of a medical certificate. Three terrible letters.

The Virus and the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines

Despite the counterintuitive claim of psychologist Steven Pinker that violence is declining globally[5], the violence inflicted on those living with HIV prompt quite the opposite conclusion. (For women[6] and LGBT people[7] living with HIV, the pain is more pronounced, for not even violence is made equal in the eyes of God.) “The AIDS pandemic recreates for us the frightening world of the earlier church,” wrote African theologian Tinyiko Maluleke[8], the lives of the early martyrs mirrored in those lives branded by three terrible letters. But our judging gaze need not look far. After all, in our own country, the wicked marriage of conservative religiosity and outdated public health policies[9] had given birth to conditions that allow people to die young[10] from an untreated virus. We are shocked: gone too soon, we say. But with all our lip service to them, we continue to be shocked by the idea of minors getting tested – that it is somehow too soon[11] – even as conservative estimates place the number of adolescents living with HIV at nearly ten thousand[12]. Like some of the martyrs of the early church, they were hardly adults when they first knew suffering.

But the response of the Roman Catholic Church to this suffering, as embodied by the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), has been something of a mess. To be fair, their assertion that families “be nuclei of care”[13] is important: without a doubt, families have an important role to play[14,15,16], and we need to include them in our HIV/AIDS programs. Their call for “deepening the spirituality of caring for people living and affected by HIV”[17] is also without fault, as studies have already demonstrated faith’s potential in caring for those affected[18,19]. And in the CBCP’s HIV/AIDS primer[20], they were absolutely right in writing that “structural injustice” was one of the roots of the epidemic. As medical anthropologist Paul E. Farmer and colleagues write: “HIV attacks the immune system in only one way, but its course and outcome are shaped by social forces having little to do with the universal pathophysiology of the disease”[21].

In principle, the church’s position that “we have to welcome people living with HIV into our homes and into our parishes”[22] makes perfect sense. Isolation and abandonment, in all its forms, are what fundamentally drive the epidemic. By standing together, as the early martyrs did, so much could be done. On these points, the research agrees wholeheartedly[23,24,25]. The light of truth prevails.

But that is where the light ends and the mess begins. One particularly messy statement, released in 2011[26], misrepresented the condom use promotion strategy of public health advocacies and wrongly interprets published research in favor of abstinence-only policies – policies which we know don’t work[26,27,28,29,30,31]. (As proof, consider that the Philippines currently holds the world records for highest rates of HIV infection[32] and teenage pregnancy[33].) A claim made in 2015[34] that most people living with HIV came from “broken families” is equally confusing. While a case should be made that dysfunctional social systems worsen the impact of HIV/AIDS on communities[35,36,37,38], the term “broken family” is uselessly vague at best, obsessing over individual families rather than on focusing on larger social issues. And the claim that condom use was “tantamount to condoning promiscuity and sexual permissiveness” and helps spread the virus is not only dangerously moralistic: the best evidence tells us it is simply wrong[39]. This claim was made in the CBCP’s 1993 pastoral letter on HIV/AIDS[40], but has not changed since then.

Paula Clifford

Overall, the CBCP’s official position has been deeply problematic. But most heartbreaking has been its impact on human lives. The opening message of the CBCP’s HIV/AIDS primer reads that “perfect love triumphs over stigma, and spreads joy, hope and salvation”, but this perfect love has been gruesomely mistranslated: it has entrenched stigma and buried us in a torrent of pseudoscience and misplaced guilt. And that despite their undoubtedly good intentions, the decades-old confession of the World Council of Churches that Christians “share responsibility for the fear that has swept our world more quickly than the virus itself”[41] remains a confession whose penance remains unserved. “The great Christian themes of the goodness of creation, love and life,” theologian Paula Clifford laments, “appear to have been thrown into disarray”[42]. And this disarray, as far as the anecdotal evidence tells us, has only pushed Filipinos living with HIV away. Love’s only triumph here was that it successfully branded them as little devils.

Alternative Christian perspectives

Regardless of the ambitious etymology of the word “Catholic”, an old word meaning “universal” and “all-embracing”, the CBCP’s position is far from universal. For instance, in a recent statement of the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research endorsed by internationally renowned theologians set the case bluntly: “official teachings on marriage and sexuality, based as they are on abstract notions of natural law and outdated, or at the very least scientifically uninformed, concepts of human sexuality are for the most part incomprehensible to the majority of the faithful”[43]. These teachings, which have made sexuality “incomprehensible” to many Christians, have also made it “unspeakable”: for the Christian Conference of Asia, it had created cultures which “inhibit open and honest discussion of human sexuality”[44]. The judgment of the Catholic Bishops of Myanmar was much more specific though, writing that “priests or bishops have stopped lay people from raising awareness about HIV ... and even preventing them from giving scientifically proven sexual health information”[45].

And in India, which bears the grief of Ganjam and Gonda, their conference of Catholic bishops offered a stern reminder: “Those who feel morally superior to those living with HIV/AIDS may remember that self-righteousness is condemned more than any other sin by Jesus in the pages of the Gospel”[46]. It was self-righteousness, after all, which drove people to burn an entire family alive.

This “spectacular theological error of the church”, in Paula Clifford’s words, has cultivated the toxic idea that “sexuality is nature’s strongest competitor for their loyalty to Christ”[47]. But it is not a universal feature of Christian thinking: in fact, there is a rich history of spiritual writing that is affirmative, rather than suspicious, of sexuality[48,49,50,51]. “It should not be too much to hope,” Professor Traci West writes, “for a space in the church where such concerns could be openly addressed as part of a broader understanding of Christian theology and human spirituality”[52]. And it is not too much: in fact, it is absolutely necessary. In Dr. Joseph Go words, “there is nothing human that is untouched by gender and sexuality”[53] – and if theology is the study of God at work in human life, surely God must also be at work somewhere in sexuality, the HIV/AIDS crisis in particular. And we must find God quickly.

“For years the church has warned against the evil of sexual immorality,” reflects Pastor Arnau van Wyngaard of Swaziland, who tends to his flock in the country with the highest HIV prevalence in the world[54]. “But perhaps too little has been done to enable Christians to celebrate the gift of human sexuality that God has given to us”[55]. Too little, but hopefully not too late. More is being done to bridge this conversation of faith in addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and many have taken up the cross in the name of progress – not as a rod to strike the branded, but as a shepherd’s staff to lead and embrace them. “People Living with HIV-AIDS are like lepers of olden times who suffered from marginalization, stigmatization and alienation,” declares a 2011 statement by National Council of Churches in the Philippines, echoing a growing sentiment among the Christian faithful in the country that something has gone amiss and must be corrected by a fuller appreciation of the Christian vision of perfect love. “For we are alienated from ourselves and we lose that compassion to be caring for the least of Christ’s brothers and sisters who are created in the image of God”[56].

Much more can be said, but it is sufficient to say that in order to fulfill the Christian faith’s proper role in addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic – in order for perfect love to really triumph – its churches must stop making martyrs out of its people. It must do more to wash off the bloody brand of those three terrible letters, and must look beyond the comfort of its conventions to do so. Borrowing the words of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, the HIV/AIDS epidemic requires bringing to all “the gift of God’s grace that heals and accepts unconditionally”[58]. So that praises, not eulogies, may grow ever numerous.