Responding to the AIDS Crisis
Since 2005, HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment has been an integral humanitarian service of the Order of Malta Philippines in response to the call of the International Committee of the Order of Malta (CIOMAL) to provide medical and palliative care for sufferers of HIV and protection against viral infection.
In the same year, the Order has conducted regular visitations to the H4 Pavilion of San Lazaro Hospital. As an expression of solidarity, the Order celebrates the Holy Eucharist with the patients and conducts workshops and trainings for the hospital’s healthcare workers. For the past two years, these visitations have been conducted almost monthly with Fr. Hector Cañon, Chaplain of San Lazaro Hospital. Every December, the Order sponsors a gift-giving during the Christmas party for the patients which also coincides with the celebration of World AIDS Day. Members of the Order who are unable to attend these visitations were encouraged to spend a Holy Hour at the Adoration Chapel in Santuario de San Antonio or at the Manila Cathedral to pray for the intention of those suffering from HIV and AIDS.
The Order of Malta Philippines is well-aware that HIV and AIDS is a preventable disease that is why the Order believes that the most effective long-term solution to the calamitous illness is public education. For this reason, the Order has conducted a number of workshops and information dissemination drive to increase the public’s awareness about the disease. Last 5 May 2016, the Order conducted an HIV and AIDS workshop focusing on the Youth’s perspective about the disease at the St. Andrew’s Church in Parañaque City. According to the Department of Health, more than half of newly-infected Filipinos of HIV are aged 15-24 years old.
Likewise, last 25 March 2017, the Order conducted a training on Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV infection. Twenty healthcare workers attended the workshop at San Martin de Porres Charity Hospital in San Juan. Dr. Perla N. Alban, DTM&H, FPSMID, FPSVI, Project Director of the Order of Malta Philippines, conducted the session. At the end of the one-day seminar, the participants made a solemn vow of commitment to adopt practices that seek to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV infection as staff of the charity hospital’s Maternal and Child Health Services.
According to a news report by Radio Vatican, HIV continues to be a major global public health issue with recent statistics showing that an estimated 36.7 million people are living with HIV including 1.8 million children. The vast majority of this number live in low- and middle- income countries. Around 40% of all people living with HIV do not know that they have the virus.
The Order of Malta Philippines is committed in continuing other programs geared towards awareness, prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS including providing spiritual and financial assistance to patients and other services especially for pregnant women and their babies.