Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Albay vice governor, ex-beauty queen seek to upscale local HIV response
By Mike de la Rama

LEGAZPI CITY, March 29 (PNA) -– Albay Vice Governor Harold O. Imperial and former Ms. International 2013 Bea Rose Santiago have urged public-private partnership to upscale local HIV response to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“As we pledge our commitment to the new Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, we know that collectively we can achieve significant results and we need to place supportive policies, with the much-needed budget allocation,” Imperial said.

The vice governor explained that the budget should not be limited to the implementation of health programs for those infected but also for information dissemination or educating the people on the causes and effects of HIV.

“As a community, we have to realize that HIV knows no social, economic or political boundaries. It taints the lives of people it infects, especially the innocent children who are suffering from congenital HIV,” he said.

Imperial said Albay’s development agenda is not enough if "we do not have the support of groups, organizations and individuals. We will only be paying lip-service to our pronouncements if we do not mobilize as a community and act individually and collectively.”

"Our collaborative efforts will surely make a difference to prevent new HIV infection and stop stigma and discrimination in the province of Albay," he added.

Santiago, a strong advocate of reproductive health, said one in three new cases of HIV reported is someone who belongs to the 15-24 age group.

“HIV in itself already sounds an alarm. I thank the United Nations Populations Fund for getting me into its work and for the opportunity to reach out to young people, especially young girls, and serve as their inspiration to aspire for more n life,” she said.

The former international beauty queen said private and public partnership is very important to address the global problem.

“But is is more concerning when we learn that among the most vulnerable members of the population are the youth. Being a young is supposed to be the most exciting part of person’s live,” she said.

It is when you enjoy life the most while, at the same time, preparing yourself for the more serious responsibilities of adulthood, the former beauty titleholder said.

Santiago also stressed the impact of knowing to have been infected with HIV at the age of 21, or even younger.

She added that sexual and reproductive choices of young people can have a cascading effect on their human rights.

“Adolescent pregnancy for example can lead girls to drop out of school, which deprives them of their rights to education. Lack of understanding about gender equality can lead to discrimination and other human rights concerns,” Santiago said.

This is reality, she said. But living life and enjoying life do not always have to lead to unplanned pregnancy or HIV.

“This is why I have always spoken strongly about the importance of comprehensive sexuality education, I would say that I am empowered to talk about sexuality education because I was privileged to have that in school in Canada where I spend my teen years," Santiago said.

She further said that comprehensive sexuality education enables young people to make informed decisions about their sexuality.

"When correctly implemented, it introduces appropriate information consistent with the evolving capacities of young people. And when properly taught it can empower both girls and boys to make the right decisions and choices on matters of their reproductive health, including protecting themselves against teen pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections and HIV," Santiago stressed.

“It is about time that we lay down our worries that sexuality education promotes promiscuity. Comprehensive sexuality education does not lead to earlier sexual activity or riskier sexual behavior. Global studies have proven that comprehensive sexuality education reduce risk behavior,” she said.(PNA) LAP/FGS/MDR/CBD/EDS