by Charlene Collantes
ILIGAN CITY (PIA)–The City Health Office (CHO) here joined in the international human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) Candlelight Memorial event.
Dubbed “Spread the Love and Solidarity to Build Stronger Communities,” the event aimed to commemorate those who lost their lives to AIDS-related diseases and unite as a community in support of people living with HIV to end stigma and discrimination.
Various partners, stakeholders, organizations from different sectors, and the LGBTQIA+ community participated in the event.
Dr. Glen Manarpaac, the acting City Health Officer, noted that although there has been an increase in HIV cases, it is not necessarily a negative trend. The increase signifies greater awareness and testing, allowing for prevention, treatment, and advocacy for safe sex, reduced stigma, and acceptance of individuals living with HIV.
“Come out, get tested, especially if you know you belong to the high-risk, ayaw mo kahadlok, ayaw mo kabalaka because highly confidential ito and we have available treatment, meron tayong free HIV counseling, meron free HIV testing, and meron tayong free HIV treatment na pwede na makuha pinaagi sa atoang city health ug sa atong ubang partners,” he said.
(Come out, get tested, especially if you know you belong to the high-risk group; don’t be afraid; don’t worry because it is highly confidential and we have available treatment; we have free HIV counseling; we have free HIV testing; we have free HIV treatment that is available and obtained through our city health and our other partners)
Meanwhile, Najib Amer from the local government office of the vice mayor emphasized the importance of seeking support, assuring individuals that there is no need to fear or feel ashamed. He emphasized the need to openly discuss fears and concerns to address them effectively.
On the other hand, Al Madali from Motivational Philippines delivered a reflective message, highlighting that the fight against stigma and discrimination in HIV/AIDS extends beyond a single program. He urged everyone to carry the message of life and hope back to their homes and offices, spreading love and solidarity, and building responsive and proactive communities when addressing HIV and AIDS.
The Adventist Medical Hospital serves as the treatment hub for HIV patients, providing free medical treatment. (CEC/PIA-10/Lanao del Norte)