Bets told: Bare platform on health issues
ALARMED by the rising cases of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the country, a civil society organization in Bicol is calling on national and local candidates to address this health concern in next year’s elections.
Eden Divinagracia, executive director of the Philippine Non-Government Organization Council (PNGOC) for Health and Welfare Inc., has urged civil society and media groups to organize forums where the candidates can discuss their agenda on various health issues, especially HIV which causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).
“We will ask them for their stand on health issues ranging from HIV-AIDS, teenage pregnancy and mental health to maternal and child care,” Divinagracia says.
Health authorities have reported the number of people inflicted with HIV-AIDS growing to “epidemic” proportion.
According to the Department of Health, a total of 6,552 people had been reportedly diagnosed with HIV from January to October alone, Divinigracia said during the “Media Reproductive Health Advocacy Forum” held recently in Guinobatan town in Albay province.
A total of 651 new HIV cases had been reported during the same period, or a 21 percent jump from last year’s number, she said.
In the case of Bicol, 31 HIV cases were listed from January to March, with Albay topping the list with 11, followed by Camarines Sur (7), Camarines Norte (4), Sorsogon (5), Masbate (3) and Catanduanes (1).
Since 1984 to March 2015, Bicol recorded 270 cases, with Camarines Sur having the highest number with 95 cases, Albay (91), Sorsogon (32), Masbate (25), Camarines Norte (19), Catanduanes (7 and one unknown case).
At the rate the HIV cases were reported, it is estimated that one case is detected every hour—making this an “alarming” health issue that needs serious attention from political leaders, national and local government units and the media, Divinigracia said.
The forum was sponsored by the PNGOC-Albay AIDS Council.
Divinagracia said a public discussion on the issue would give voters an idea on what to expect from their candidates in addressing various health concerns that would endanger their well-being and the community.
“The forum would serve as a barometer or guide in helping people to decide objectively who among the candidates deserves to be voted or rejected based on their political agenda on health,” she said.
She said questions would be framed to solicit clear answers ranging from “Do they have executive or legislative programs that would reduce the rising cases of HIV, what do they intend to do, how much fund would they share, (and) what infrastructure facility would they proposed for health care services.”
In Albay, for example, Divinagracia noted there are only three social hygiene clinics—one each in the cities of Legazpi and Tabaco and in Daraga town. These facilities are operated by their respective local government units—attending to commercial sex workers, those working for food businesses and walk-in clients.
Divinagracia said other concerns that must be addressed by those seeking elective positions included the rising number of teenage pregnancy, maternal and child mortality rate, mental health cases, poverty and the integration of reproductive health to climate change mitigation and adaptation measures.
In the case of teenage pregnancy, the 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) indicated that one in ten young Filipino women age 15-19 began childbearing even as they continued to live with their parents or relatives, Divinagracia said.
The NDHS showed that teenage girls become pregnant due to, among others, unplanned sexual encounters and peer pressure; lack of information on safe sex; breakdown of family life and lack of good female role models in the family; and absence of accessible, adolescent-friendly clinics.
Divinagracia also cited a report of the Philippine Statistics Authority involving the alarming rise in teenage maternal deaths.
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