The AIDS Society of the Philippines (ASP) held its Biennial Scientific Meeting last October 23, 2015 at the Silver Lotus Events Place Ballroom in Quezon City. With the theme “Multidimensional Perspectives in Understanding the HIV Problem: Focus on Males who have Sex with Males (MSM)”, four studies were shared by two social scientists and two medical researchers.
Some 119 participants from the government, academic, medical, and non-governmental organizations and institutions attended the meeting. Also in attendance were ASP’s founding president, Dr. Ofelia Monzon, and former presidents Dr. Carlos Calica and Dr. Jose Narciso Melchor Secson.
Shortly before the invocation by Dr. Rosario Tactacan-Abrenica, Vice President of the ASP, and the welcome remarks by Dr. Maria Isabel Melgar, the new President of ASP, the early bird participants received copies of Rampa, a book published by ISEAN. Rampa is a collection of personal and organizational stories shared by Gay, MSM and Transgender communities in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Ms. Mira Alexis Ofreneo, PhD, presented a qualitative study titled “Understanding the Needs of People Living with HIV in the Philippines”. This was a participatory research supported by the Philippine National AIDS Council wherein people living with HIV (PLHIV) were asked three open-ended questions about their journey as PLHIV, their needs, and about programs to address their needs. From the seven focus group discussions conducted for this study, they were able to identify the needs of the Self of PLHIV, the families and the society at large.
Most salient for the participants were themes of coming to terms with HIV; basic survival needs and their rights as PLHIV. For the families of the PLHIV, these were themes coming to terms with HIV, basic survival of the family, and care for children with HIV. There is also a need for organizational empowerment of the community of PLHIV organizations, as well as more HIV advocacy and public awareness.
Mr. Karl Reiner Agbulos, a board member of ASP, shared his recent research entitled CHEMSEX: Episodic Influence of Drug Use on High Risk Sexual Behavior among MSM in Manila. “Chemsex” refers to the use of drugs such as methamphetamine and ecstacy during sex. The study describes its influence on high risk sexual behavior among MSM in Manila. According to Mr. Agbulos drug use during sex is a growing phenomenon among some MSM in Manila. As such, this particular study highlighted the need for new harm reduction interventions that can respond to this emerging phenomenon.
The third resource speaker, Dr. Loyd Brendan P. Norella, flew in from Indonesia to present a study on The SADS-HCS-2015 in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Timor Leste – The ISEAN Hivos Stigma and Discrimination Study (SADS) in Health Care Settings. Dr. Norella reported on stigma and discrimination (SAD) in health care settings experienced by MSM and transgender populations in four countries, namely Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Timor Leste. According to the study, there were 4 main forms of stigma and discrimination faced by MSM and transgender people namely refusal to health care services, verbal maltreatment, physical maltreatment, and provision of health care service below standards. Stigma was experienced by participants in different contexts. The study about the Philippines found that transgender people experienced stigma and discrimination more frequently than MSM.
Dr. Rossana Ditango, Head of the AIDS Research Group of RITM, gave a talk on the Incidence of HIV in a cohort of MSM in Metro Manila. Dr. Ditango talked about the first cohort study on HIV incidence done in the Philippines, specifically the incidence of HIV in a cohort of MSM in Metro Manila. The focus of her presentation was on the difficulties and issues their cohort study experienced in its first two years and the steps they have taken to improve the study, as well as what they plan to do for the third year of the study.
After the presentations by the resource speakers and the closing remarks to end the Scientific Meeting, the AIDS Society of the Philippines held their business meeting.