DAGUPAN CITY – The annual World Aids Day was observed with a program and rally on December 1 at the city plaza, which formed part as one of the many activities that kicked off   the 2016 Dagupan City Fiesta.


The activity was attended by students from Grades 11 to college from different universities and colleges in the city including members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community.


The multi-sectoral rally was a joint undertaking of the city government under Mayor Belen T. Fernandez through the City Health Office (CHO) headed by Dr. Sheila Sabado and Dr. Lydwina Balingit-Bernardo as the city’s HIV-AIDS Program Coordinator, and the Philippine National Red Cross, Pangasinan Chapter.


Bernardo disclosed that the rally was aimed at creating awareness among the youth especially because of the fact “that under our records from 2010 to present majority of those infected with the virus are aged 25 to 34 years old,” she said.


In 2007 the majority age group that was infected with the virus was from 35 to 49 years old.


“From the records, we can see that pabata ng pabata ang edad ng mga infected with the virus,” said Bernardo.


She added that in 2015, the city has recorded nine victims with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and from January to June this year at least eight have acquired the virus and 77 percent of them are males who had sex with the same gender.


“That is why we are doing this kind of activity to inform the people about HIV-AIDS and we will continue doing this until we have achieved our target of getting to zero. Zero on the victims of HIV, zero on discrimination and zero on AIDS related deaths,” said Bernardo.


As an intervention, the CHO is giving free HIV screening. Those who have suspected HIV will undergo confirmatory test in a treatment hub and if confirmed positive, the CHO is giving fee medications especially for those who sought earlier medical treatment.


Each case will be treated with utmost confidentiality in consonance with the law.


Also present during the rally were Rene Astudillo, former Executive Director of the Filipino Task Force on AIDS in San Francisco, California as guest of honor and City Administrator Farah Marie G. Decano who represented Mayor Fernandez, 2016 City Fiesta Executive Chairman Epee Rafanan and Hermano Mayor Councilor Dennis Canto. (Joseph C. Bacani/CIO/Dec. 2, 2016)