Print Version    Email to Friend
Philippine clergy urged to help fight stigma by taking HIV test

Manila (UCAN): Father Dan Vicente Cancino, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippine’s Commission on Health Care urged the clergy to have HIV tests. “Priests can help fight the stigma by undergoing HIV tests themselves,” he said on May 14.

“The real challenge (in fighting HIV and AIDS) is the stigma and discrimination,” said Father Cancino.

On May 14, members of the Philippine Catholic HIV-AIDS network, under the supervision of the bishops’ conference, took part in the observance of the 33rd International AIDS Candlelight Memorial at Liwasang Aurora of the Quezon City Memorial Circle, Metro Manila to remember those suffering from the illness.

Father Cancino said Church groups have been involved in counselling and assisting families of people affected by HIV-AIDS.

“The largest fraction of our effort is education,” he said.

“We should value our relationships to our family and our faith to God,” Father Cancino said. “In giving importance to the teachings of the Church, we will be able to prevent acts that lead to such an illness,” he said.

Gundo Weiler, a physician and the World Health Organisation representative in The Philippines, lauded the increasing numbers of advocates and groups helping disseminate awareness about AIDS.

“We can see a much engaged Filipino public in facing the truth about this virus,” he said.

“With efforts from the government, religious sectors, and nongovernmental organsations, we hope that cases of HIV will decrease,” Weiler said.

Faustine Luell Tupas Angeles, a 27-year old banker living with HIV appealed for an end to the fear and misconceptions about people with the virus.

“This illness doesn’t define who we are,” Angeles said, encouraging “those who are living with HIV, don’t be afraid to seek medical treatment.” 

Angeles called for people living with the virus to come out “because being diagnosed with HIV is not a death sentence.”

The Philippines is among nine countries experiencing an uptick in HIV-AIDS cases, according to health ministry officials.

Vicente Balizario, undersecretary of the Department of Health, said that despite low-infection statistics in the past among Asian countries “we are a country with growing numbers.”

Between January 1984 and January 2016 the cumulative number of people in The Philippines living with HIV totalled 31,160.

Most infections involve males, with 24,004 cases from 2011 to the present.

In January 2016, there were 64 reported deaths due to AIDS, 60 of them were male. 

More than half of reported deaths belong in the 25 to 34-year-old age group.

A total of 1,638 deaths were reported from January 1984 to March 2016.

However, Balizario said “HIV-AIDS is not a hopeless case.”

In the Philippines, screening, testing, and treatment, are free and are covered by the government’s health insurance programme.

More from this section