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Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations

Philippine Statement
H.E. Mr. Bayani S. Mercado
Deputy Permanent Representative of the
Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the United Nations

Roundtable on Prevention of HIV/AIDS

High-level meeting on HIV/AIDS

New York, 2 June 2005

Mr. Chairman,
Esteemed participants,

On behalf of my delegation, I am honored to participate in this important roundtable on the prevention of HIV/AIDS. I am confident that today’s open and interactive discussions will contribute to an honest evaluation of how much we have achieved in preventing the spread of the epidemic, especially as the international community embarks on a momentous assessment of the Millennium Development Goals this year.

Fortunately, the Philippines has been able to keep the HIV/AIDS prevalence and rate of infection in the country low. In the past ten years there have been 2,260 HIV positive cases reported, 30% of which were AIDS cases. We attribute this low prevalence to early recognition of the disease and the timely national response to the problem, consisting of a comprehensive approach to prevention, treatment and care, buttressed by the appropriate legislation, the institution of the Philippine National AIDS Council and a robust regular surveillance of the risks of spread of the disease.

Nevertheless, while the prevalence and progression of the disease in the country are low and slow, there is never any guarantee that the situation will remain as is. Even though the Philippines has one of the lowest rates of infection in the region, it has, however, all the factors that can lead to a potential epidemic. Poverty and its associated ills— the limited reach of advocacy and education efforts, coupled by the increasing number of young Filipinos falling into risky behavior; inadequacies in health care, particularly in reproductive health, and the occurrence of violence against women, are among the major factors that breed the epidemic. Also, in an era of continuing globalization, migration by many Filipino workers increases their vulnerability to the disease. These realities substantiate the magnitude of attention that the Philippines gives to the effective prevention of HIV/AIDS.

Indeed, HIV/AIDS is not only a grave challenge to people’s health, but it is also a serious impediment to national development. Crucial to preventing HIV/AIDS is better understanding the disease and its dynamics. In this regard, we cannot overemphasize the importance of a systematic collection and analysis of data and information in providing the basis for informed and targeted interventions. The developmental face of the HIV/AIDS problem also means that responses need to be multi-sectoral in order to constitute the necessary comprehensive approach. Our national council on HIV/AIDS is rigorously developing functional links with stakeholders from local communities, non-governmental organizations and agents of the international community in order to step up HIV/AIDS programs, particularly prevention efforts. Resource mobilization continues to be a crucial determinant of the extent and sustainability of the implementation of these programs.

Increasingly, the vital importance and effectiveness of community-based responses to the disease are being recognized. The task of national mobilization has thus been translated into the task of mobilizing local responses on a nation-wide scale. In this process, we face the challenge of better internalizing local responses among officials and improving the linkage of efforts on HIV/AIDS with other local priorities.

Overall, the country’s achievements in curbing the spread of the disease have been met due to strong foundations set in place for a comprehensive national response. However, much more is desired in terms of scaling up prevention efforts and widening the reach of interventions. Also, while addressing prevention efforts to the whole population remains the bedrock of the strategy, there is a need to improve the targeting of efforts to sectors of the society that are more vulnerable to the disease. We are seriously implementing this strategic approach, for example-- for the youth, by making HIV/AIDS an integral part of basic education and, for Filipino migrant workers, by incorporating education on HIV/AIDS in pre-departure orientation seminars. General awareness of HIV/AIDS through advocacy efforts also need to be fine-tuned in order to result in positive behavioral change.

The extent of cooperation within the international community, including civil society and the private sector, proves critical in halting HIV/AIDS. Especially in the area of prevention, international cooperation has a very significant impact. We need to build our capacities in a collective manner and enhance partnerships and resources to scale up prevention efforts if we want to overtake the global spread of the disease and ensure a sustainable international effort to wipe out HIV/AIDS.

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