By URIEL C. QUILINGUING
Contributing Editor .
HUNDREDS of candles will be lighted Sunday at the City Hall mini park for those who died due to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (Aids) as Misamis Oriental-Cagayan de Oro Aids Network (Mocan) joins the worldwide 33rd International Aids Candlelight Memorial and Mobilization (IACMM) that day.
But other than this, the lighted candles will also signify a collective prayer for regular funding from the local Aids council (LAC) for HIV-Aids advocacy activities that begun more than 20 years ago, according to Mocan president Fritzie Caybot-Estoque.
The LAC-initiated IACMM in Cagayan de Oro will kick off at 4 pm with a eucharistic mass at the St. Augustine Metropolitan Cathedral and an Advocacy Program at the city hall mini park at 5 pm.
Estoque, who heads the multi-sectoral network with more than 40 member organizations, also appealed to the Department of Health to regularly update vital information and statistics on HIV-Aids and facilitate information sharing.
One of Mocan’s milestones, after intense lobbying at the City Council was the enactment of City Ordinance No. 11195 in 2008, which manifested the local government’s concern for persons living with HIV and support for information, education and communication campaign (IEC), but was not fully implemented due to lack of funding.
Dr. Joselito Retuya Jr., who sits in Mocan for the City Health Office, said they have regular budget for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing and sexually transmitted infection diagnosis.
But funding for IEC, Retuya said, comes from the regional and national offices of the Department of Health, and one of the advocacy activities includes the annual Aids candlelight memorial and mobilization.
Mocan secretary Lerio Chua-Lloren, representing the Alagad Mindanao, said aside from the City Aids Ordinance, the engagement of their group is boosted by Memorandum Circular No. 2013-29 of 2013 of the Department of Interior and Local Government.
Lloren said the DILG circular provides the representations of the organization of persons found positive of HIV and the focal person in the HIV-Aids advocacy in the LAC.
The LAC, as provided for by the circular, is chaired by the local chief executive with 11 other members which include, among others, the health committee chair in the City or Municipal Council and the health office.
The Mocan secretary said she is hopeful for the recomposition of the LAC after the May 13 midterm elections, including appointments from advocacy and from persons living with HIV community.
Meanwhile, Mocan trustee Reynante Namocatcat of Tingug Cagayan de Oro Inc., said one of the challenges they have been facing is the reluctance of local government leaders to increase the resources for HIV and Aids education, prevention and control.
Namocatcat said the IEC campaign must be intensified because of the influence of social media on free and easy access to sex.
“Since the awareness and mobilization for HIV and Aids activities are now catered by LAC in Cagayan de Oro, I am anticipating they will implement the ordinance, including increased budget for interventions,” said the Tingug CDO head.
Meantime, Estoque earlier expressed optimism on the enactment of Republic Act No. 11166, otherwise known as the Philippine HIV and Aids Policy Act which President Rodrigo Duterte signed on Dec. 20, 2018, which repealed the Philippine Aids Prevention and Control Act of 1998 (R.A. No. 8504).
Spearheaded by the Global Network of People Living with HIV, the IACMM started in 1983 and is now participated in by some 1,200 community organizations—including Mocan—in 115 countries.