Armed with stronger consciousness and sensibility beyond the pages of medical textbooks and manuals, the MHAM advocates joined together in a collaborative awareness campaign on Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome spearheaded by the Student Advocates for Public Health and Environment (SAPHE) in collaboration with the Student Council (SC) at AVRs 4 and 5 last October 20, 2018 from 8:00 in the morning to 5:00 in the afternoon.
Dubbed as “MARIPOSA: An HIV Awareness Campaign”, the whole day event was basically aimed to fight against the stigma around HIV/AIDS and People Living with HIV (PLHIV), as the result of emerging insult, rejection, discrimination and exclusion to people living with HIV.
A foremost barrier to efficient responses to the epidemic of HIV and AIDS around the globe, the stigma issue may affect patients’ healthcare for the fear of the perceived risk of rejection.
Decisively-attended with an estimated total of two hundred seventy-six (276) MHAM future doctors mostly from second and third year student-advocates, the campaign was passionately assisted by the Department of Health Regional Office VII and Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center HIV/AIDS Core Team who served as event speakers.
Being a new member of AIDVOCATES movement, former student-leader and Vice-President of batch Solarium, Dr. James A. de la Cruz, was also present during the campaign.
A spanish word for butterfly, ‘mariposa’ represents the metamorphosis and the transformation from the old into something beautiful and a beauty that has sprung from within, however, it can be fragile. Thus, the butterfly-effect, which was stemmed and popularly exemplified from a delicate beauty can be transformed into an exquisite rebirth, ready to create a momentum change from within, which SAPHE hopes to achieve in the MARIPOSA-themed consciousness movement.
A unique experience in understanding the basic to conscious realization behind HIV and AIDS, a voluntary and free HIV testing was also catered to participant-advocates to know their status along with firsthand experience on pre-counseling, testing and post-counseling.
Pledged to unite with the people living with HIV in their battle, the MHAM advocates actively signed the pledge of advocacy as a symbolic gesture to end the HIV discrimination and stigma through their medical profession and practice in the future and to uplift the rights of all those living with HIV as the battle continues in every corner of the globe.
Sharing the same experiences and advocacy, the MHAM advocates took their turns as they enjoyed their photo opportunity at the photo booth with HIV-themed props bearing different hashtags for the campaign, aside from an overflowing coffee and ample drinking water provided by SAPHE and SC.
Based from the Department of Health-Epidemiology Bureau report in the Philippines, there were one thousand forty-seven (1,047) new cases of HIV-recorded cases during the month of August 2018.
The DOH data also showed that just this year in the month of August, there were thirty percent of the three hundred twenty-eight cases were diagnosed from the National Capital Region, followed by Calabarzon with one hundred seventy-three cases, one hundred nineteen in Central Luzon, one hundred eight in Central Visayas and fifty-eight cases in Western Visayas.
Making the MHAM movement more meaningful, the ever-supportive MHArMony graced the event with their soulful renditions during the notable awareness campaign.
In her welcome address, College Dean, Dr. Ma. Socorro Manaloto said that the foreknown movement was advanced by the Association of Philippine Medical Colleges (APMC) national to evolve the campaign among medical institutions in the country.
“Welcome to this campaign on HIV awareness program and I hope that you will be imbued on yourselves for what we are doing for this campaign. This was actually encouraged by the APMC and somehow, the UP College of Medicine has piloted already this project and when Dr. Agtuca and I attended the seminar-workshop on HIV with APMC where Dr. Madamba was also present, immediately they organized this forum by schools in Cebu City. It is a good venue for you and for education and as well as self-awareness, really fitting and relevant to us as medical practitioners and future physicians, and congratulations to the organizers”, Dr. Manaloto said.
According to SAPHE adviser and VSMMC HIV/AIDS Core Team forerunner, Dr. Chamberlain Agtuca Jr., the remarkable campaign was initiated in response to APMC’s concern on the increased number of HIV cases among medical students.
“It is still common among patients who are discriminated by their doctors so we are trying to introduce the HIV awareness among medical students hoping that in the future we are going to see new doctors who are open to HIV and AIDS. Supposedly this is for all year level but unfortunately we don’t have enough facility to cater everything. For the interns, they have the Blood Bank and Pathology rotations so they have this kind of exposure aside from echo lectures from professors like Dr. Alera and in the events of duties and hospital-acquired exposures so they will know what to do and where to go if there’s a need for medication”, Dr. Agtuca said in an interview.
The MHAM alumnus who graduated in 2004 added that for the incoming first year students, the HIV awareness forum will be incorporated during the General Orientation Week prior to their classes. Moreover, the core team is planning to conduct a training on HIV to the SAPHE members for further awareness this summer.
Driven by his passion excelled in social interactions for information dissemination, Dr. Agtuca further explained that early detection through testing and screening is necessary to prevention efforts. “Basically this campaign is to let people be aware that HIV is a real threat and everyday in the Philippines, there are thirty-one Filipinos who turn to be HIV-positive. In Cebu, everyday there are two or three Cebuanos will turn HIV-positive as our current trend so there is indeed a need to disseminate information and to let the public know that there is treatment for HIV and it’s not the end when you are diagnosed, and there is hope at the same time. What is really important is an early testing because if you are tested earlier with no opportunistic infections, the management of the condition is just quick compared to late diagnosis. Among medical students and doctors, if you are diagnosed earlier, the outcome would be much better with less risk to transmission”, he added.
A dedicated MHAM maven and faculty member of the Department of General and Clinical Pathology for eight years now, Dr. Agtuca was engaged in the HIV Treatment Program with DOH in 2010 up to present. He fully admired and commended the SAPHE advocates who are willing to serve for community outreach programs amidst pressing schedules among future physicians.
A national speaker and trainor for both DOH HIV Core Team and HIV Primary Care Training, Dr. Agtuca, being the first speaker during the event, focused his presentation on National and Regional Epidemiology of HIV/AIDS and Republic Act 8504, an act of promulgating policies and prescribing measures for the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS in the country.
Meanwhile one of the core team forebearers made her trademark wave in promoting awareness on HIV aside from her unwavering commitment being a resource speaker for STI, HIV and AIDS, trainor for workers and peer educators and past president of Transgender COLORS, Inc. A registered nurse by profession, Ms. Francheska Dabon shared her expertise on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation known as SOGIE, HIV Stigma and Discrimination along with her commitment as a project officer for Transgender Women Health Services.
“All of us are vulnerable to the disease and that’s how we see. WHO studies show that confidentiality is the main issue in India, Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines because we tend to talk and that’s why there are tactics in counseling. If you know the person you should avoid doing the counseling because you’ll become biased already. You should respect and protect the rights of others especially your patients regardless of their gender and identity”, the resource speaker said.
Adding color and fun to the event was an engaging performance by the SUgbuanong Pundok Aron sugpuon ang Child Abuse (SUPACA) Youth with their entertaining HIV-themed role play that ended with a bang of A-B-C-D-E prevention for HIV: A-bstinence (wait for your one true love); B-e faithful (be mutaully faithful); C-heck your status (and get tested); D-on’t do drugs (spread the love, not the virus); and E-ducate yourself and others.
Before the morning session ended with a grand forum, Dr. Helen Madamba of VSMMC graced the campaign in her HIV 101 and Post Exposure Management presentation. A training officer and Medical Specialist III at VSMMC Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Head of the Infectious Diseases, the UST graduate had her Obstetrics and Gynecology residency training in UP PGH and a fellow in Infectious Diseases. She is also the current OBGyn Coordinator and Liaison Officer for HIV/AIDS of VSMMC.
“First of all I would like to thank MHAM SAPHE for inviting us to be part of your HIV forum and the best way to measure the impact of this forum is, if your knowledge is translated into action. You are post-graduates, you know the basics, you have a competency level, and therefore this has to translate into a higher level of action. You can engage patients wherever you are, both online and offline so our expectation is that at the end of this full forum, this will change you somehow and I hope that this has an impact on you at least on your point of view or perception to people living with HIV. They are people afterall, and they are humans and at the very least they deserved respect, love and support”, Dr. Madamba said.
The coordinator of HIV Program of CDU College of Medicine ended with a note that having a HIV-negative family can be the most positive thing in life.
A certificate of appreciation was handed to the event speaker for having been rendered her invaluable contribution in the ‘MARIPOSA: An HIV Awareness Campaign’ together with the rest of the resource speakers and participating guests.
Among the SAPHE advocates who carried out their mission to promote public health and environment in the service of humanity was a 24-year old future doctor of Batch Insignis.
A graduate of BS in Medical Technology from Maguikay, Mandaue City, Cebu, Frenzy Antonette S. Tadle was also the event host and forum moderator whose personal goals and hopes conform her membership with SAPHE.
“As future medical professionals, it is important that we ourselves know how HIV is transmitted, how we deal with patients who are confirmed positive with HIV so this activity would help us relate more to them and for us to be able to avoid discriminating them even if we don’t know or in ways that we are not aware that we are actually discriminating them. This program enables us to become self-aware, how to help the patients, how to eradicate the stigma on HIV and to fulfill the goal of DOH to have zero percent of HIV in the country in the coming years”, Tadle said.
This first year student-advocate also emphasized that across cultures and times, butterflies have long-held meanings and symbols and teach us a lot of things.
“As medical students we have this thing to just focus on studies but then there are moments we want to actually reach out to the people but we don’t have the avenue to do that. When SAPHE has been established in our school, we were given this chance to interact and help the people and practice our skills as advocates”, she concluded.
The afternoon session was centered on the discussions of HIV Antibody Testing Principles, Pre-Test and Post-Test Counseling with AIDVOCATES President, Mr. Keannu Arnoco followed with The Face of HIV presentation by CPAI and AIDVOCATES. To complete, the Poster Making Contest outside the venue made the whole day event more engaging with a meaningful participation among advocates.
Sponsored by KAPEL and Alcordo Adverstising, the successful event was one of the major activities that SAPHE and SC have collaborated before the year ends.
Inspired to translate the learnings into action, the advocates are now challenged to take the responsibility to correct misconceptions and to reduce and end the stigma against the persons living with HIV and AIDS.
As the rate of infection is rapidly increasing in various parts of the globe, raising a challenging yet rewarding consciousness on HIV and AIDS through community care, education, training and initiatives can truly create a valuable impact in the society.
Like butterflies that represent change, hope, endurance, transformation and life, the MHAM advocates are hopeful to spread their wings to share the favorable to full of hope news to others with its two main fronts: prevention and care. (Ana Liza Abao)