PH Clerics to Undergo HIV Testing, Counseling on World AIDS Day

MANILA, Philippines – Clerics from a fellowship of Protestant and non-Catholic religious groups will undergo voluntary HIV testing at the Quezon City Memorial Circle on Monday, December 1, during the observance of World AIDS Day.

Rev. Rex Reyes Jr., secretary-general of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, said in a statement issued Sunday that the activity would be part of the NCCP’s campaign to “intensify” voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) for HIV in the country.

Reyes noted the “dismal percentage of people tested for HIV in the last 12 months. “This is too alarming to ignore much more so that many of the cases are young people.”

The NCCP cited the report of the Department of Health showing that a mere 0.73 percent of women and men aged 15-49 underwent VCT and were informed of the results in the past 12 months, while only 8 percent of males having sex with males underwent HIV testing and knew the results.

“We recognize that this limited demand for VCT is because of the prevailing stigma on HIV and AIDS and the perception that only sinners and promiscuous people should get tested,” said Reyes.

“On World AIDS Day, our hope is that people will realize that HIV test is as much a precautionary measure as blood tests,” he said.

Accordng to NCCP, studies show that everyone could vulnerable to the virus as infection can happen through blood transfusion, injection, or even while having an operation.

The council said that since 2011, the NCCP has employed  the SAVE approach, which provides a more holistic way of preventing HIV by incorporating the ABC principle (Abstinence, Be faithful and Condom use), providing information about HIV transmission and prevention,  providing support and care for those already infected, and actively challenging the denial, stigma, and discrimination associated with HIV.

SAVE stands for:

  • Safer practices such as prevention of mother to child transmission, safe blood, safe injections, safe circumcision, safe microbicides, correct and consistent condom use, and vaccines research;
  • Access to care, treatment and nutrition;
  • Voluntary, routine and stigma-free counseling and testing; and
  • Empowerment of children, youth, women, men, families, communities and nations vulnerable to preventable and controllable infections, illnesses and deaths

On the mandatory HIV tests, Reyes, said his organization “remains opposed to it as it heightens stigma and discrimination.”

“It does not encourage people to come forward. It is also a violation of people’s rights. We are much more in favor of VCT as it allows an individual to undergo counseling, enabling him or her to make an informed choice about being tested for HIV,” he said.

“Through our #PreventionNOTCondemnation campaign we will step up our efforts to educate our member churches on the correct information on HIV and AIDS through trainings, prayers, liturgy, and preaching,” said Reyes.

“Our hope is that religious leaders will maximize their positions of respect within their faith communities to break the silence, challenge the stigma and provide the delivery of evidenced-based prevention, care and treatment services in response to HIV. I believe that is both scientific and pastoral,” he added.


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