Church reaches out to people with HIV, depression in Puerto Princesa

Church reaches out to people with HIV, depression in Puerto Princesa

Bishop Socrates Mesiona, Vice Mayor Nancy Socrates, and other partners-health advocates signed a commitment to reach out to persons living with HIV and those experiencing depression, in a ceremony held at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Puerto Princesa, Feb. 13, 2019. KATYA SANTOS 

By Katya A. Santos

Feb. 16, 2019

Puerto Princesa City

The Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Princesa launched on Feb. 13 an advocacy apostolate program for persons living with the human immunodeficiency virus (PLHIV) and depression, following a Holy Mass presided over by Fr. Eugene Elivera at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral.

“This is very timely, I am aware of the increasing numbers of HIV in Palawan, of people who are suffering from depression that resulted [in] committing suicide. On the part of the Church, we wanted to spearhead awareness campaign, to reach out… let us embrace them without judgment and discrimination,” said Bishop Socrates Mesiona in an interview.

According to Elivera, the program, which aims to eliminate discrimination and stigma against PLHIV and those undergoing depression, is in partnership with the local government through the City Health Office (CHO), Ospital ng Palawan (ONP), and with the support of different volunteer-workers from civil society organizations.

Males having sex with males

Mesiona, Vice Mayor Nancy Socrates, Councilor Roy Gregorio Ventura, City Health Officer Dr. Ricardo Panganiban, HIV Program Coordinator Regine Villapa, Hayalee Vicente (ONP) represented their respective offices in a signing of commitment to the program.

Panganiban said the increasing number of HIV cases in Palawan is alarming.

“Based on data, and research, the cause of increase is not tourism-related, it does not come from sex workers, people affected are mainly MSMs or males having sex with males,” he said in Filipino.

‘Unrecorded cases’

There are 338 recorded cases of HIV in Palawan, only 246 are undergoing anti-retroviral therapy at ONP’s Red Top Center, based on the data presented by Panganiban.

“Where are the others? We need to reach them out, to come out and be treated,” he said, adding that there may still be many “unrecorded cases” of HIV in Palawan.

He also lauded the effort of the Catholic Church in helping address the stigma and discrimination against PLHIVs.

Elivera also said the public’s support is important in ensuring that people living with HIV or depression are not discriminated against or alienated.