Message of UNDP Country Director, Mr. Toshihiro Tanaka
City-Based Planning Workshop on HIV and AIDS of 17 Local Government Units of the National Capital Region, Cloud 9 Hotel, Antipolo City
Dr. Ferchito Avelino, Executive Director, PNAC Secretariat
Mr. Jonas Bagas, Executive Director, TLF SHARE
Participants from the 17 local government units of the National Capital Region
Participants from the MSM and TG community
Participants from the Positive community
UN colleagues, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Magandang hapon sa inyong lahat!
First of all, let me express my sincerest thanks to you all for coming to this workshop and to the Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC) through its Working Group on MSM and TG and the Secretariat for co-organizing this event. It has always been a pleasure to join these events, having attended previous workshops and meetings involving the government and civil society organizations since I assumed my post in 2012.
This workshop came at an opportune time when there is a growing demand for increased local actions towards meeting the goals set under the 5th AIDS Medium Term Plan (AMTP) and the global call under the Millenium Development Goals particularly MDG 6, which aims to halt and reverse the spread of HIV and AIDS by 2015. While the 5th AMTP provides the comprehensive policy framework for action in accelerating the country’s response to HIV and AIDS in a given period, its successful implementation requires strong support and significant contribution of the local government units (LGUs), and broad-based participation of the civil society organizations (CSOs), key affected populations, people living with HIV (PLHIV), and other key stakeholders.
The decentralized system of the Philippine government has recognized the increasing responsibililty of LGUs on HIV prevention and control efforts. Hence, Republic Act 8504 or the “AIDS Law” strongly recognizes the important role of LGUs towards effective HIV response through the creation of local coordinating mechanisms such as the Local AIDS Councils (LAC) and ensuring its functionality, the enforcement of local AIDS legislations especially in high risk priority areas, and the design of targeted package of interventions for the key affected populations.
We firmly believe that the way to move forward in terms of strengthening the HIV response in the country is to deepen the involvement of the local government units and ensure their strong collaboration and partnership with the community-based organizations at the local level and for this, the national government, with support from the development partners, should provide the space to make this collaboration happen. Localization of HIV responses cannot be overemphasized. Localization is the foundation in which the achievement of all goals including the MDGs depends on, and it is for this reason that the importance of local leaders and local stakeholders in the response to HIV and AIDS has to be taken into account seriously.
Under the new UNDP Country Programme, our goal is to strengthen capacities of national and local governments and communities to plan and implement sustained, comprehensive and effective responses to HIV and AIDS with localization at its core. In the previous programme cycles, large part of our support focused on strengthening the effective and sustained local HIV response, and enhancing the capacities of CSOs including community-based MSM, TG and PLHIV groups to be able to effectively engage with the national and local governments and integrate their agenda into the national and local frameworks.
Along this line, UNDP supported the formulation of a National Comprehensive Strategic Plan on HIV and AIDS for MSM and Transgender Population (MSM and TG Plan), which is a roadmap of interventions to arrest the increasing epidemic among Filipino MSM and TGs. This plan was approved by PNAC in April 2012, and a subsequent Operational Plan was developed and adopted by community stakeholders in December 2012. The PNAC, through the MSM and TG Working Group, recognized the need to localize this plan in all 17 LGUs of the National Capital Region in line with their efforts to review the implementation of the 5th AMTP.
Given all these ongoing and parallel efforts, UNDP through the support from the Asia Pacific Regional Center (APRC) and PNAC jointly organized this important planning workshop with the aim of developing city-based HIV and AIDS plans of the 17 LGUs of the National Capital Region, and ensuring that the agenda and required package of services and interventions for the MSM and transgender people are mainstreamed into these city plans. I know that this is just a beginning and I hope that the results of this workshop will inform PNAC’s strategy and plan to strengthen local HIV responses with the greater involvement of key stakeholders at the local level. Localization of the 5th AMTP, including the MSM and TG Plan, necessitates a collective effort and calls for strong leadership and governance mechanisms that adhere to the principles of inclusive participation and multi-stakeholder partnership as part of a long-term solution to the HIV and AIDS challenges of the country.
The challenge of halting and reversing the spread of HIV and AIDS in the Philippines is a daunting task. The HIV and AIDS situation in the country is a growing concern with the exponential increase of new HIV infections. From one case detected every three days in 2000, the HIV incidence increased to an alarming rate of one every three hours (or eight per day) in 2012. The most recent report from the Department of Health’s HIV and AIDS Registry shows that the rate of new infections has further escalated to 13 new infections per day for the first half of 2013. Unprotected sex remains the leading mode of HIV transmission particularly through unprotected male-to-male sex, with the bulk of new infections coming from the National Capital Region. These are just some of the relevant information that have guided everyone through the years in developing policy framework and programmatic interventions on HIV and AIDS.
To help address these challenges, we hope that the local leaders and local stakeholders will take into account the following important elements of an effective local HIV response:
Enactment of policies or ordinances that enable national and local governments and stakeholders to formulate and implement programs that improve the lives of people at risk, infected with and affected by HIV and AIDS;
Establishment and strengthening of local coordinating mechanisms (such as LACs) to coordinate and monitor local AIDS responses, and provide guidance on issues related to HIV risks, vulnerabilities, and impact with AIDS;
Strengthening partnership with civil society groups and the community to raise public awareness about the HIV epidemic and mobilize multi-sectoral support required to combat it; and
Allocation of resources required to mount an effective, comprehensive, and sustained HIV prevention, treatment, care and support program.
Once again, my sincerest appreciation to everyone present here for your active participation to this workshop. I hope that you will continue to take stock of the knowledge shared in this workshop, and translate this knowledge and plans into atual implementation. I wish to thank the PNAC MSM and TG Working Group, PNAC Secretariat, facilitators, documentors, and the rest of the organizing team for a job well done. I hope everyone will have a safe travel back home.
Maraming salamat po!