The Visayas Primary Healthcare Services, Inc. is one of the cooperating partners in a project with the Visayas Community Medical Center (VCMC) that aims to increase access of HIV risk groups to hospital-based and community-based voluntary and confidential counselling and testing (VCCT).
The project dubbed as “Advocating Gender-based Actions towards Caring Communities” (AGACC) is a capacity building initiative for community and church health workers on VCCT. This program engages hospital-based, community health workers and HIV advocates to conduct massive information campaigns that lead to consented counselling and testing for HIV among mem having sex with men (MSMs), commercial sex workers, injecting drug users (IDU) and other people who may opt to know their HIV status.
The project is funded by the United Evangelical Mission (UEM) in Germany and was launched last July 29, 2016 in the UCCP – VCMC Sunergia bldg.
Other cooperatingpartner includes the Bisdak Pride, civil society organization of persons who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT).
The project hopes to empower people especially the HIV risk groups to enjoy their rights to health and confidentiality in the process of seeking health care. It is part of the healing ministry of the Church.
Pilot areas for this project are Barangays Pasil, Ermita, Barrio Luz and Sambag II in Cebu City and shall later move to the municipalities of Medellin and Bantayan in Cebu Province.
Cebu City is one of the cities with a high prevalence of HIV cases in the country. The needle-sharing by injecting drug users has been tagged as the leading cause of HIV prevalence in Cebu City, followed by males who engage in sex with males, then by female entertainment or sex workers (DOH, 2015). Among the regions in the Philippines, Central Visayas is currently ranked second next to the National Capital Region in the most number of PLHIV.
In the Philippines, voluntary counseling and testing has largely been confined to hospital laboratories and clinics. The Cebu Plus Association provides mobile vans that conduct VCT in certain occasions and places.The community-based HIV counseling and testing program aims to make HIV prevention information and community-based voluntary counseling and testing services more widely available and more widely-used in communities at high risk of HIV infection
Activities of the project include the following, namely, informationand education activities on HIV and AIDS, training of community health workers on VCCT andteaching learning communication skills (TLCS), establishment of referral system for risk groups to avail of VCCT services, actual VCCT services in the hospital and communities, and anetwork formation among risk groups to advocate for better services from public and private service providers and to advocate for formulation of barangay resolutions providing increased access to HIV services.