COVID-19 Vaccines and PLHIV


In March 2020, we were one of the first organizations in the Philippines to conduct a series of webinars on HIV and COVID related topics, as a supplemental learning for the HTTP graduates. The webinars were developed as a way to ensure the continuity of care for People Living With HIV (PLHIVs) and at-risk groups during the COVID-19 pandemic & ensuing lockdowns.

This webinar series greatly benefitted our HTTP graduates, as well as other primary care workers, by providing timely knowledge and awareness in order to adapt and respond to the challenges brought upon by the pandemic.

This year, as the Philippine government is about to roll out a national vaccination program against COVID-19, we are at a critical point where knowledge must be shared to HIV healthcare providers, and vaccine confidence boosted among PLHIVs, while focusing on the latest science and updates on HIV and COVID-19 vaccines.

Here are the Q&A topics that followed:

The most common question sent in by attendees was whether special provisions were to be made for PLHIV for easier access to the vaccine. Worries about confidentiality, disclosure, and unnecessary exposure to the public of immunocompromised individuals were the reasons given for desire for a more localized area of distribution.

We will follow up with the Department of Health for a statement regarding this concern.

HIV Telehealth Training Program lectures are online!

History & Epidemiology of HIV
Clinical Course of HIV
The First Clinic Visit
Treatment Adherence
Treatment Failure & Resistance
Long-term Complications of ART
Starting ART during Opportunistic Infections
Common Opportunistic Infections
Hepatitis & HIV Co-infection
Tuberculosis in HIV
Sexually Transmitted Infections
Management of Dyslipidemia in HIV
Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission
Pediatric HIV
Neurologic concerns in HIV
Mental Health, Crisis Management, and Counseling
PhilHealth OHAT Package
Harm Reduction
HIV & the Law
Stigma & Discrimination
Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Expression
Trans Health
Self Care for Providers

HIV and COVID-19

The HIV Telehealth Training Program (http), along with our partner experts, join us in creating the COVID-19 Supplemental Sessions for healthcare providers and our fellow Filipinos — hour long learning videos with live Q&As with our participants.

  1. COVID-19 101

Dr. Kate Leyritana discusses the basics of SARS-Cov-2 and COVID-19 disease. What testing and treatment modalities available locally, and how to approach someone who comes for a consult and presents with signs and symptoms.

This video was broadcasted on March 31, and some newer data may have come forth since then.

2. Life in the Time of COVID

How do we keep our homes and workplaces free from COVID-19? Dr. Angelo Ramos gives us some tips on how to stay safe while staying at home.

3. HIV Care Continuum During Philippine ECQ

Metro Manila, NCR, and eventually the whole of Luzon was placed on Enhanced Community Quarantine on March 12, 2020. Foremost on the minds of PLHIVs were how to get their ARTs when public transportation was unavailable. Benjamin Banguingan of DOH NCR explains how access to medications must remain universal despite the lockdown.

4. HIV and COVID-19

It has been reported widely that immunocompromised people are at high risk for mortality and complications once with COVID-19. Is this true? What’s the story on COVID and HIV? Dr. Louie Ocampo of UNAIDS enlightens us.

5. Communication and Resilience

Social Isolation with is not an easy thing to go through. How can we survive this? Do we come out of this as different versions of ourselves? Is there a New Normal we need to conform to?

Dr. Gia Sision and Dr. RJ Naguit discuss Mental Wellness while on lockdown, while Professor Beng Ramos-Mortel discusses Risk Communication strategies for our healthcare workers.

About http

http – HIV Telehealth Training Program

Telehealth is a means of delivering education through telecommunication technologies. Elsewhere in the world, telehealth has made it easier for healthcare workers in remote field settings to obtain guidance from professionals in the diagnosis, care, and referral of patients. Whereas telemedicine serves as the clinical application of technology, telehealth encompasses a broader scope, and aims to enhance both healthcare delivery and health education.

The rapid and consistent increase in the new cases of HIV in the Philippines calls for an equally aggressive response from medical providers to provide adequate care.  One of the current gaps in HIV healthcare is seen in the lack of formally trained providers to man the front lines of the treatment hubs and primary care facilities that cater to over 50,000 patients. The lack of a formal HIV Medicine training program and the paucity of Infectious Diseases specialists have led physicians of all specialties, nurses, social workers, and peer educators to provide primary healthcare as numerous HIV treatment centers are opened each year.

In an effort to augment current practices in HIV healthcare provider training, Sustained Health Initiatives of the Philippines (SHIP) organized the HIV Primary Care Skills upbuilding workshops in 2015. The workshop emphasized management of clinical scenarios, holistic HIV care, and engagement of the network of HIV healthcare providers. The generous feedback of participants in the workshops revealed how continuing medical education of HIV providers is a sound should be provided. However, it presented a significant logistical and financial investment for some.

To engage a greater number of healthcare providers, the power of internet and technology should be leveraged. The potential of a technology-driven learning program can overcome the Philippines’ innate geographical setbacks, and may prove to be a cost effective to provide training. Inspired by the success of the nationwide HIV telehealth training program of HAIVN in Vietnam, the HIV Telehealth Program will engage experts to lead issue-driven case study training and discussion in clinical and system-based care based on existing guidelines, updates on policies, and implementation of quality improvement activities, provide didactic training.

Telehealth allows for providers from multiple locations to connect simultaneously with a central team of experts, allowing for experience sharing and peer-to-peer learning between clinical sites. Learning is exponential, as participants can  also serve as hubs of information of the institutions within their jurisdiction. The three main tenets of telehealth are:

  • Longitudinal co-management of patients with specialists and case-based learning
  • Opportunities to learn from other community-based primary care physicians working in similar settings
  • Short didactic presentations on topics relevant to the case discussions

http aims to achieve the following objectives:

  1. to increase the knowledge base and skillsets of HIV healthcare providers in HIV primary care, management of opportunistic infections and co-occurring diseases, other issues surrounding HIV care
  2. to improve the communication and referral system among hubs and paramedical services
  3. to recommend this program to policy makers in the health ministry for nationwide scale-up                 

This program hopes that building up the knowledge and skill of the HIV healthcare provider will be translated to improved patient outcomes, better patient retention in care, towards the UNAIDS 90-90-90 target (90% of people living with HIV diagnosed-90% on treatment-90% virally suppressed).