"We need to act big, act fast, act now," said Dr. Rosanna Ditangco, head of the AIDS Research Group, Research Institute of Tropical Medicine (RITM). Dr. Ditangco, together with Dr. Gerard Belimac, head of the Department of Health's National AIDS/STI Prevention and Control Program, launched on September 6, 2012 at the City State Tower Hotel in Manila a new HIV program called "Project 3S: Smart, Safe, and Sexy." In attendance were key health personnel of various local government units from around the country.
The project upholds two unique thrusts: (1) A partnership with advocacy-driven MSM advocates and (2) the Continuum of Care Approach. The program believes that advocacy-driven volunteers from the men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) community can have valuable contribution in reaching the ambit of the most at-risk population. This new breed of MSM volunteers consists of young urban professionals and will be the “Change Agents” who would be effective channels on reaching out to target populations and serve as role models to their peers ensuring that peers who are HIV negative would remain HIV free. The Continuum of Care Approach links HIV prevention to Primary HIV Care ensuring immediate access to post-test counseling, Primary HIV Care, including Anti-Retro Viral Therapy Management.
Love Yourself, an MSM-focused advocacy group, was highlighted as the model community-based organization that enabled the success of the program's trial run by RITM held from January to July this year. It was shown that in partnership with Love Yourself, the number of MSM clients accessing HIV testing at RITM's satellite clinic jumped more than seven-fold (from an average of 18 clients to 140 clients per month). In addition, the Continuum of Care approach enabled minimizing the number of HIV-positive clients who do not access critical post-test counseling, baseline tests, and primary HIV care.
A select number of local government units will pilot the program in their cities starting this September.