Inception workshop kicks off three PRIMEX projects on HIV/AIDS

PRIMEX continues to carve its mark in the health sector with three HIV-related projects currently being implemented for the Philippine Department of Health.

An inception workshop for (i) Accelerating Community-based HIV Drug Abuse Health Service Models in Zamboanga and General Santos Cities, (ii) Review of Guidelines on Sexually Transmitted Infections, and (iii) Development of Target-Specific Training Manual on HIV Counseling and Testing for OFW Clinics Service Providers, Social Workers, and Community-Based Organizations was held on 16 October 2012 in Manila to discuss the coverage and scope, work plan, and strategies for their implementation. It was attended by representatives of the Center for Health Development Region IV-B, Department of Interior and Local Government, NGO partners, researchers, project team leaders and consultants, and PRIMEX support staff.

Accelerating Community-Based HIV Drug Abuse Health Service Models

PRIMEX is partnering with two nongovernment organizations (NGOs), namely, Zamboanga City-based Human Development and Empowerment Services (HDES) and General Santos City-based Social Health Environment and Development Foundation (SHED) in implementing the DOH project on Accelerating Community-Based HIV Drug Abuse Health Service Models in Zamboanga and General Santos Cities (REI-CS-GOP-2010-31). The project seeks to implement an evaluated model of health service provision for drug abuse among the vulnerable population in priority communities of General Santos and Zamboanga Cities. Project Team Leader Dr. Jose Sescon describes the project as “a more comprehensive HIV program that is both sustainable and encompasses a wider coverage.” The consortium will facilitate access of the identified vulnerable population to rights information and education and health services, including prophylactic commodities, using a rights-based approach, and enable a safe legal environment in the delivery of health services to the identified vulnerable and marginalized population.

“HIV situation in the country pervades due to several factors but primarily due to lack of proper education and negligence on the part of stakeholders. Injecting drug users (IDUs), female sex workers (FSWs), and men having sex with men (MSM) are among those highly vulnerable to HIV which this project seeks to target,” Dr. Sescon said.

It was in 1993 when the first formal study about IDUs was conducted in Cebu, and since then the Philippines has been involved in various IDU related projects backed by public-private partnerships. The current project will address the gaps that were not addressed in previous endeavors and provide avenues for strengthening skills of its outreach workers, particularly in areas that require improvement, and ensure sustainability of project efforts.

Among the issues discussed during the workshop included the role of local government units (LGUs) in advocating the policy to support the provision of services for people who inject drugs (PWID) which entails LGU briefings, partner coordination meetings, dissemination and validation workshops, project scoping meetings, courtesy visits and/or calls, and clearly defining the roles of law enforcement agencies such as Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), Philippine National Police (PNP), and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) detox/rehab centers.

Documenting current practices on STI diagnosis and treatment

Another project discussed was the DOH project on the Review of Guidelines on Sexually Transmitted Infections (REI-CS-GOP-2010-30) for which PRIMEX is engaged to determine the current protocols observed by STI service providers in the diagnosis and treatment of common STIs in the country and review the current treatment recommendations of common STI-causing microorganisms through conduct of population-specific clinic-epidemiologic study and desk review of related studies. At the end of the engagement, PRIMEX will provide recommendations to DOH on the current STI treatment regimen.  Providing technical leadership in the design and implementation of the entire study is Mr. Onofre Jeffrey Meriles as Team leader and Principal Investigator. He is being supported by Dr. Carlos Calica as Co-Investigator and Dr. Ofelia Saniel for the epidemiological and statistical analysis.

The project focuses on the treatment of gonorrhea among sex workers being served by the Social Hygiene Clinic. About 4,000 individuals will be targeted for treatment in three identified testing sites within Quezon City.

Training Materials for HIV Counseling and Testing (HCT)

PRIMEX is revising and developing target-specific training manuals, handbooks, and toolkits for HIV counseling and treatment (HCT) which are tailored for three specific target groups—service providers in overseas Filipino workers (OFW) clinics, social workers, and CBOs and their intended beneficiaries—under the Development of Target Specific Training Manual on HIV Counseling and Testing for OFW Clinic Service Providers, Social Workers, and Community-Based Organizations (REI-CS-GOP-2010-29).

The project will also set up a pool of local trainers for the implementation of the revised/developed manuals as well as develop a capability-building plan for the rollout of HCT among OFW clinic service providers, social workers, and CBOs. Team Leader Dr. Carlos Calica is assisted by Dr. Imelda Melgar.

Discussions during the workshop encouraged HIV+ OFWs to share their real life stories regarding their experiences and misconceptions of the HIV virus and its transmission. NGOs, who work closely with OWFs, indicated that they provide departing OFWs with brochures on HIV information, transmission, and treatment during the Pre-departure Orientation Seminars (PDOS) which they encourage the clients to read and even share with other OFWs. It was suggested that the language used in the manuals should be sensitive and must also be translated to various dialects.

The three projects bring to 35 the total number of health sector contracts won and currently implemented by the firm, including the ongoing ADB loan-assisted Nutrition Improvement through Community Empowerment (NICE) Project (Loan No. 2348-INO) in Indonesia, the USAID-funded Tuberculosis Control Project in the Philippines.