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Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations
It is an honor to engage in this debate on the assessment of global progress to curb the HIV/AIDS pandemic. I would like to thank the UN Secretariat for preparing the background report that gives us a picture of the global HIV/AIDS situation and outlines a number of important key recommendations that we should consider.
Mr. President and distinguished colleagues,
We used to think that the HIV/AIDS situation in the Philippines was always “low and slow”. While the overall number of HIV-infected persons in the country remains below 0.1% of our population, half of those cases were detected only in the last seven years. This “hidden and growing” situation is reason not to be complacent in our efforts. Moreover, because HIV/AIDS affects Filipinos during the peak of their economically productive years, HIV/AIDS is not just a health concern; it is a developmental concern. Therefore, the major thrust of the country’s efforts on HIV/AIDS remains the prevention of its further spread and acting ahead of the epidemic. Our efforts are anchored on our national law on HIV/AIDS, the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act, to which amendments are currently being contemplated to make it more responsive to the evolving dynamics of the disease. The “Three Ones” are also in place in the country. With the Philippine National AIDS Council as the coordination hub, we have developed medium term plans, including a costed operational plan, to determine where resources could make the greatest impact and what strategies and interventions need to be prioritized. The Secretary-General’s report once again highlighted that, despite the impressive resources mobilized, the gap between resources and actual needs continues to increase annually. We, therefore, call for enhanced resources and for these resources to be targeted to the high-impact areas that serve the needs of concerned countries.
At the national level, the Philippine government has developed guidelines, standards and protocols for HIV case reporting; voluntary counseling and testing; treatment, including the provision of anti-retroviral drugs, as well as care and support. We have also strengthened the capacities of health care providers and created HIV/AIDS Core Teams made up of medical specialists and social workers in government hospitals, in partnership with NGOs. Through our Department of Labor, we have developed a National Workplace Policy that gives guidance on how to deal with HIV/AIDS in the workplace. Moreover, in order to sensitize our embassies and consulates on HIV/AIDS issues, we have integrated HIV/AIDS and migration in the training of our foreign service personnel.
The work to fight HIV/AIDS can only be successful if it closely involves the community and the groups that are most-at-risk. Because of our decentralized system of governance, our local government units are charged with integrating HIV/AIDS into their local health systems. A growing number of local government units have institutionalized HIV/AIDS and STD prevention and control programs in their local development plans and matched them with the corresponding budgets. Furthermore, through community-based approaches, which include information dissemination, health services and even behavior change strategies, we are able to strategically reach out to people and target the vulnerable groups. Influencing the local leaders is by no means an easy task, so that we highlight good practices and models for local leaders to emulate. For example, we have publicly featured the impressive work on HIV/AIDS of model cities, such as Laoag City , a city to the north of the capital Manila , and Zamboanga City , in the south, to inspire other cities to do the same. In addition, despite the negative perception on harm reduction programs, we have managed to use these programs as examples of involving and empowering persons mostly at risk, such as injecting drug users (IDU) and men having sex with men (MSM)
Indeed, systematic monitoring and evaluation is key to knowing the epidemic and knowing what steps to take to avert its spread. The establishment of a monitoring and evaluation system in the Philippines is a continuing multi-stakeholder effort that requires the partnership of national and local government, as well as civil society. In setting this up, we have uncovered critical issues such as the need to develop better data collection and compatibility, the importance of having the right technologies and capacities for documentation and monitoring, as well as the need to improve communication lines with stakeholders, involving government and civil society actors.
We have only two years to go before the universal access targets. We are also already halfway towards the Millennium Development Goals. Can we still make it? The people on the ground working against HIV/AIDS are clamoring for real political leadership. Even at this time, not all leaders are aware of the seriousness of the issue, and so while we have the words and the plans, more often that not, we don’t have the corresponding implementation. We also do not have the corresponding resources. For our plans to have a real impact on the disease, we need to sustain our actions and sustain our resources. Can we intensify our cooperation, among governments, with international organizations and non-governmental organizations to generate more resources and share our knowledge, capacities and technologies? HIV/AIDS finds an easy breeding ground in environments of poverty, ignorance, discrimination, social marginalization and gender inequalities. This means that if we are to stamp out HIV/AIDS in the long term, it will require grounding our response to a broader development and human rights framework.
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