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Reflecting on two decades of partnership with the Positive Action Foundation Philippines Incorporated (PAFPI)

Sep 28, 2021

For the last two decades APHEDA has worked in partnership with the Positive Action Foundation Philippines Incorporated (PAFPI). PAFPI is an advocacy and support organisation of people living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA). APHEDA, through the support of the Australian government NGO program (ANCP), has strengthened the capacity of PAFPI to engage hundreds of thousands of departing Filipino migrant workers on sexual health and support those with HIV to live healthy and dignified lives.

This year marks the end of APHEDA’s 20-year partnership with PAFPI, and is an opportunity to look back on strong achievements over the many years of collaboration. APHEDA is currently supporting PAFPI in ensuring long-term sustainability by strengthening its business planning and engagement with government and other funding stakeholders.

Positive Action Foundation Philippines Incorporated (PAFPI) was formed in 1998 by Joshua T. Formentera, with the help of other people living with HIV and AIDS, their affected families, and significant others. This non-profit organisation has a mission to empower people with HIV and their families to live normal and productive lives in a supportive social environment. PAFPI is continuing the fight for HIV prevention by facilitating support responses to the needs of PLWHAs and their families. This is done through the provision of peer education, care, and support services. PAFPI believes in the greater involvement of PLWHA in the Philippines’ national responses to HIV.

PAFPI’s success lies in the employment of many of its PLWHA volunteers as staff in its various projects. A majority of the staff and board members of the organisation are HIV-positive. PAFPI has gained the recognition, trust, and confidence of PLWHAs and funding agencies as an organisation directly involved in care and support services. PAFPI successfully conducted the First, Second, and Third National Consultation Process with PLWHAs and convened the First National Consensus Meeting of PLWHAs on November 28 to December 1 2001,  resulting in the adoption of the Manila Manifesto of Filipinos Living with HIV/AIDS, which forms the basis of PAFPI’s future planning, and advocacy and lobbying efforts.

This non–profit organisation has been instrumental in ensuring free Antiretroviral (ARV) treatment for HIV for all Filipinos, meaning more PLWHA can survive than ever before. Yet PAFPI efforts did not stop with this success. Lack of HIV information means that PLWHA are often met with rejection, stigmatisation, and discrimination by friends, family, and the community. Many have been kicked out of their homes and found themselves alone in the streets.

PAFPI’s historical impact

In PAFPI’s early years of providing care and support to persons living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV) in the Philippines, project implementation proved to be a challenge for the organisation as funding was almost non-existent.

In 2000, founder and then-Chief Executive Officer of PAFPI Joshua Formentera and PAFPI General Assembly Member Robert Ruiz completed a study tour of community AIDS organisations in Australia. With funding support from the Pasasalamat Fund set up in Australia by Richard Gardner, the tour was a success and PAFPI was able to learn and adapt the best practices of Australia in combating the HIV/AIDS pandemic. PAFPI subsequently set up the first community-led PLHIV Temporary Shelter in the Philippines, the Abot Kamay Drop-in Center in Manila.

For 23 years, PAFPI has provided temporary shelter for thousands of vulnerable people living with HIV in the Philippines and their families. PAFPI’s Abot Kamay Drop–in Center  and Bahay Kanlungan (“home–care”) provide them with essential support during a very difficult time in their lives.

Through the drop-in center and peer education, PAFPI supports people living with HIV in the Philippines to live healthy lives free from prejudice and discrimination.

Those who have benefited from this project include families with children, deported and returning HIV+ Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), and people from the provinces who need to access ARV treatment and medical check–ups in the city. The Abot Kamay Drop-In Centre also serves as a venue for PAFPI-sponsored training, seminars and one–on–one counselling, and HIV and treatment information.

The demands for these services continue to grow due to the continuing incidence of HIV. PAFPI is working to ensure that its shelters will be sustainable on a long-term basis.

Over the years APHEDA has helped PAFPI reach almost 700,000 women and men through programs such as providing basic HIV and sexual health education to departing OFWs and partnerships with OFW diagnostic clinics and treatment hubs in pre- and post-test counselling. HIV testing is a requirement for all OFWs prior to departure, as they often find themselves in high-risk situations for HIV in both work and social environments, and many return to the Philippines having tested positive for HIV. Through PAFPI, former OFWs living with HIV work to educate departing OFWs.

“One of the significant impacts of the two decades or partnership between PAFPI and APHEDA is that OFWs who were infected and affected by HIV have been empowered. They are now at the forefront of HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support for Filipino Migrant Workers.

 


PAFPI will remain forever grateful to the Australian Government and APHEDA not only for their financial support of the project but also the technical assistance they have provided. The Governing Board of PAFPI, the project team members, the PLHIVs, the OFWs, and different stakeholders in the Philippines will carry on our commitment in ensuring that no one will be left behind in achieving a healthier and HIV–free community.”

— Rodel Navarra, PAFPI Head of Operations

Education provided by PAFPI for PLWHAs and their families includes home-based care training, home and hospital visits, learning sessions, stigma reduction, stakeholder consultations, support groups, and the encouragement of behavioural change. The activities are anchored in the three major components of the PAFPI program: HIV prevention, care and support for PLWHAs, and organisational sustainability. 

The Philippines remains at the top of the UNAIDS report as having the fastest HIV incidence in the Asia-Pacific Region. Though the Philippines has seen a significant increase in the number of HIV cases, it is noteworthy that the number of OFWs infected decreased between 2001 and 2008. During this time there was a shift in the epidemic, where local transmission increased amongst men having sex with men.

More HIV/AIDS advocacy to be done…

Continuing support from APHEDA and the Australian Government has assisted PAFPI in its journey toward reaching the UNAIDS Global “90–90–90” target. Set in 2016, the target has three key aims, these being that: 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status; 90% of all people diagnosed with HIV will be on treatments; and 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.

In collaboration with the PLWHA community, policy makers, and other agencies PAFPI will help make an HIV-free Philippines a reality.

PAFPI’s HIV intervention projects for Filipino Migrant Workers or Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) through Pre–departure Orientation Seminars (PDOS), and provision of appropriate care and support services for PLWHAs and their families have been funded and supported by Union Aid Abroad APHEDA (Australian People for Health Education and Development Abroad) since 2000.

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