Friday, February 01, 2013

Makati, Quezon City, Lead in Implementation of World-Class HIV Counseling and Testing Programs

The local Health Departments of Quezon City and Makati lead the pack in actively implementing world-class HIV prevention programs, particularly HIV Counseling and Testing. 


In a report published by the World Health Organization in the last quarter of 2012, the Philippines was praised for the use of best methods in containing the epidemic. “Existing interventions draw on international best practices such as peer learning, networked outreach, internet chatting, and connecting risk groups to health services,” the report says. In particular, the report cites a key strength of the Philippine response to HIV which is the different models now made available by different groups in the provision of HIV counseling and testing (HCT).

“ This diversity is a strength of the response in the Philippines, and should be embraced. There is no single, perfect model for delivering HCT because sites vary in terms of potential clients, available resources, and the site’s experience in providing… HCT, ” the report says.

For the past 5 years the country has seen a rapid increase in HIV cases, mostly due to the implementation of effective HCT models that are now able to reach people who in the past did not have easy access to the service.

Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag, head of the National Epidemiology Center of the Department of Health, announced via Twitter on Monday, January 28, 2013, the full-year 2012 numbers of newly diagnosed HIV cases in the country. Three thousand three hundred thirty eight (3,338) new cases were diagnosed in 2012, a 42% jump from last year, and ten-fold rise from just 5 years ago in 2007.

“The rise in numbers is indicative of the success of programs that aim to reach out to those who need to get tested. I have personally seen how passionate and active Makati and Quezon City are in pursuing this, kudos to them!” says Ronnievinn Pagtakhan, founder and president of Love Yourself, a non-governmental organization involved in HIV education, prevention, and counseling.

Makati City, known for its community health programs, has endeavored to champion discreet and premium quality HIV counseling testings that cater to the young professionals of its Central Business District. It has partnered with volunteer group The Love Yourself Project in organizing special HIV testing events. Last November 2012, The Love Yourself Project managed to attract more than 200 sexually active young men at a discreet HCT venue in Makati City. In January 2013, they introduced a special ultra-discreet, by-appointment-only HIV testing event called Platinum HIV Testing, which targets the most discriminating of clients requiring extra care and confidentiality. It is being offered twice a month in an undisclosed location, also in the Makati Central Business District. For maximum discreetness, appointments are set online at http://loveyourself.ph

The Makati City local health department, however, continues to provide free HCT services at the Makati Social Hygiene Clinic for anyone who wants to avail it there, but the “special event” HCTs attract a different set of people.

The Quezon City Health Department (QCHD), on the other hand, employs a group of professional Peer Educators and HIV counselors stationed in three of their Social Hygiene Clinics at Batasan, Project 7, and Bernardo (Cubao). Anyone can visit any of these clinics and avail of free HIV education, counseling, and testing services. Their Bernardo Clinic in Cubao is also referred to as the “Sundown Clinic” because they operate until 11:00 PM to cater to office workers who are free only after 6 PM. QCHD is also active in outreach HCT, wherein they setup mobile clinics next to venues where target at-risk populations hang out, usually entertainment establishments, and offer them free and convenient access to HIV testing on-site.