Mobile App to assist HIV patients launched

As the total number of people infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the Philippines could reach 55,000 by December 2016, a comprehensive HIV Disease Management Program called “Connect for Life” was launched in a bid to reduce the burden of the disease that infects 26 Filipinos every day.


“Connect for life is a comprehensive program that aims to improve the lives of HIV patients by creating a more immediate link between them and their doctors through an interactive mobile application with three main functions,” said Dr. Erwin Benedicto of Johnson and Johnson during the launch which was held in Makati City yesterday.


“First, it helps patients with their adherence of their treatment with regular and personalized medication. Second, it acts as a personal healthcare provider by analyzing patients’ important symptoms to explain if it’s serious or unexpected side effect of medication; and by providing corresponding advice on what to do. And finally, it helps improve the overall quality of life of the patients with health tips on a wide variety of topics relevant to each person,” he stated.


The program, developed by Johnson & Johnson and Sustained Health Initiatives of the Philippines (SHIP), aims to significantly reduce the burden of HIV by improving understanding of the attitudes people hold towards HIV and the factors that affect patients’ adherence to their medicines, as well as how well treatments work and the availability of ongoing care.


Published November 29, 2016, 10:00 PM

by Charina Clarisse L. Echaluce

HIV specialist urges patients to take medication regularly

A specialist has warned human immunodeficiency virus or HIV patients to do their anti-retroviral therapy regularly or run the risk of developing resistance to the treatment.

Dr. Edsel Salvaña, director at the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, National Institutes of Health of the University of the Philippines Manila, noted that like bacteria, the human immunodeficiency virus becomes resistant to drugs.

Spelling out what occurs when an HIV patient fails to take his/her medication regularly, Salvaña said once a patient develops resistance to one ART, his/her doctor will have to try another set of ART. Since there are only about seven ARTs available in the country — provided by the Department of Health — a patient will eventually run out of treatment that could work for him/her, he said.

ART, the combination of several anti-retroviral medicines that slow down the multiplication of HIV in the body, is not a direct cure for HIV. It, however, controls a patient’s viral load from increasing, and instead brings that load down so the patient’s immune system could be strengthened. When this happens, a patient could be protected from opportunistic infections that could weaken his/her system. That protection is the reason why the patient does not develop full-blown AIDS (acquired immuno-deficiency syndrome) in a span of 10 years. Once taken, ART should be taken for life.

ART actually eroded the scenario 30 years ago when AIDS was first pictured out and understood in the country, Salvaña said.

Back then, people who acquired the virus had to prepare themselves to face the reality of dying.

“But now, 30 years after, here is a treatment through ARTs wherein once you start treatment you are alive (provided the patient regularly takes his/her medication). Who knows? Years after, a cure might really come,” he said, reiterating that to get the full benefit of ARTs, patients should never disregard the regular taking of their medication.

Meanwhile, as an intervention, Johnson and Johnson (Philippines) recently partnered with the Sustained Health Initiatives of the Philippines, a nongovernmental organization, in coming up with a system to track down HIV patients taking ARTs at the Philippine General Hospital.

Under the partnership, the health providers, through the SHIP, will operate a system that would find out how compliant the patients are in taking their medication, educate them, and aid them in the management of their HIV for better outcomes.

Under the system, called “Connect for Life” and launched Nov. 29, patients have a virtual assistant that calls them to remind them that it is time to take their medicine; responds if there is a problem; knows how compliant the patients are; and motivates them to practice a healthy lifestyle.*PNA

Connect to Life, Connect to Love: New HIV Program Empowers Public to Better Healthcare

From left to right. Dr. Erwin Benedicto of Johnson and Johnson, Dr. Antoinette Evangelista , Program Officer of Dept. of Health, Edsel Salvana Director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology of the National Institute of Health, Dr. Kate Leyritana, Medical Director of Sustained Health Initiatives of the Philippines; and Mr. Renier Louie Bona, HIV Counsellor

Connect For Life is a new comprehensive HIV Disease Management Program of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson. This initiative is a collaboration between Janssen and the Sustained Health Initiatives of the Philippines (SHIP), a non-government organization running a specialist HIV care center in the Philippines General Hospital.  The goal of Connect For Life is to make people more aware about HIV and lessen the stigma still attached to it. Better healthcare can be achieved when attitudes about the illness is improved. The program also aims to enhance educational policies about HIV so that more Filipinos will know their available treatment options.

Let Me Be Your Shelter

A lot of people may wonder why this is important. “I shouldn’t get tested,” they say. “I am not affected OR infected.”

However, current statistics prove that the Philippines is one of seven countries whose number of HIV-infected individuals is increasing every year. What exacerbates the problem is the almost negligible amount of educational programs available. Furthermore, it is estimated that the H


IV care here is varied, with treatment options and doctor attitudes differing between regions.

What is more troubling is the fact the number of infected people is getting younger. That is, the age group with the biggest proportion of cases are n


ow teenagers – a significant change from how things were only a decade ago. It is estimated that 25% of HIV patients are between 15-24 years old. Health reports say that 95% of these are males, with 89% of those cases being among males having sex with other males.

A Year in a Life of Love

Chances are, you know someone who has the condition or is in relations with a HIV-positive person. How you react to this is also indicative of society’s view of the illness. Connect for Lifeseeks to change that with an incredible private and confidential user system.

Most cases of HIV are asymptomatic in the beginning. This means that a lot of people remain unaware of their risk until the condition has severely worsened; by which case, prognosis is dire. Health officials say that


prevention and early detection is key to living a happy and healthy life. Those who regularly engage in male-to-male intercourse are those who highly recommended to participate in the program. Those who are also at risk are those who use unsterilized needles or mothers who have the condition.

Connect for Life also debunks common myths that surround the disease. For example, many people treat HIV-positive people quite unfairly; even refusing to share a glass of water with them. HIV is transmitted through the transfer of excessive amount of bodily fluids. A small exchange of saliva will not give you HIV.

No Day but Today

The subsections of this article are lyrics in the musical “Rent” because it exemplifies the messag


e and spirit of the issue. It is unfair to assume that if one has HIV, one is different from society. There are many groups who care and wish to help. Connect For Life is a way for one to achieve better healthcare through proper information. Let this be your Christmas present to yourself: the gift of worth and love.

Other advocacy groups for HIV awareness and information in the Philippines are: the Positive Action Foundation Philippines, Incorporated (PAFPI), LoveYourself, Project Red Ribbon, Pinoy Plus Association, HIV Awareness Campaign Group, and UNAIDs.



Connect to Life, Connect to Love: New HIV Program Empowers Public to Better Healthcare

PHL sex stance in focus as HIV/AIDS cases rise


AS the Philippines emerged as one of the countries with accelerating rates of new cases of persons with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), staging more efficient information dissemination on HIV is gnarly for health authorities.

Assistant Health Secretary Enrique A. Tayag said that, with the P400-million funding for HIV/AIDS, the Department of Health (DOH) would like to focus on prevention “rather than treatment”.

Tayag said persons living with HIV acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) who are enrolled in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) can receive specific benefits and assistance.

Tayag was referring to the PhilHealth Outpatient HIV/AIDS Treatment (OHAT) package that covers antiretroviral treatment (ART) and laboratory exams based on specific treatment guideline. These guidelines cover CD4 cell determination, viral load test, drug-toxicity test and professional fees of providers.

The package covers up to P30,000 worth of necessary medical expenses per member-patient per year.

PhilHealth will be paying a maximum of P30,000 ($599.41, at current exchange rates) per year without cap on how many times the patient will go to treatment hubs and how many medicines or tests the patient will avail himself or herself, as long as it falls within the given amount. The OHAT package goes in accordance with the guidelines set by the DOH. According to Tayag, who is also the DOH spokesman, the department is giving P15,000 ($299.71) per person per year for first line drug and P80,000 ($1,598.44) per person per year for second line drugs.


HEALTH Secretary Paulyn Jean B. Rosell-Ubial said the DOH is continuously
offering free and confidential HIV testing in social-hygiene clinicsrun by local government units and in 22 HIV
Treatment Hubs nationwide.

Ubial added that the DO wH is also providing free condoms. Kits are not available to the public as counseling is required before and after testing, she explained.

The DOH chief said treatment options are available to those who test positive for HIV. ARTs are applied to individuals who need to lower the viral load of patients and to improve their immune response.

The DOH is seriously considering a recently-announced World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation on self-testing to improve HIV-testing rates and prevent treatment delays, according to Ubial. The Philippine National AIDS Council of the DOH is committed to end the spread of HIV and improving the lives of all who live with it, she added. She said the Sixth AIDS Medium Term Plan (AMTP), which “is the blueprint of our national response” on HIV and AIDS have determined the targets for 2022.

Ubial said the government is optimistic on reversing HIV trends in the next six years but “only if an ‘All of Society’ and ‘HIV in All of Policies’ approaches are sought with renewed vigor and determination.”

“The ‘All for Health towards Health for All’ line resonates for stopping HIV,” she said adding, that the global call for “Hands Up for HIV” prevention “has just turned a new leaf in the Philippines.”


OUTSIDE of the government are initiatives by private groups and advocates addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

One is the Philippines’s business of Johnson & Johnson Inc. Weeks after losing a lawsuit in the US on its baby-powder product, Johnson & Johnson Philippines launched late last month a campaign the company calls “a comprehensive HIV disease-management program.”

Developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Cos. of Johnson & Johnson, the program tapped non-governmental organization (NGO) Sustained Health Initiatives of the Philippines Inc. (Ship).   Ship has been running a specialist HIV care center with the Philippines General Hospital in Manila. According to documents it provided, the organization “offers high-quality, affordable HIV and primary care directly to the communities that need it most.”

According to Janssen, the program also targets to improve the understanding of the attitudes people hold toward HIV and the factors that affect patient adherence to their medicines, as well as how well treatments work and the availability of ongoing care. Working together, Johnson & Johnson (Philippines) Inc. and Ship “will undertake essential research into current awareness and attitudes toward HIV in the Philippines to generate the necessary evidence to guide education and treatment practices.

“Our goal is to improve the lives of those affected by HIV and significantly reduce the incidence of the disease,” Janssen’s Disease Management Programs leader Dr. Randeep Gill said during the launch of the program called “Connect for Life”. “Health-care solutions and appropriate care planning must be centered around patients’ needs.”

According to Gill, the program will use an evidence-based approach in designing and developing “integrated healthcare solutions focusing on patients’ and health-care worker’s needs and support the implementation of structured interventions to turn the tide on an increasing epidemic.”


THE Philippines is one of seven countries in the world where HIV infection rates are increasing. It had the highest proportional increase of infections among the 15- to 24-year-old age range from 2005 to 2015, documents provided by Janssen said.

The number of people living with HIV is anticipated to increase substantially by 2022. The quality of HIV care in the country is varied, with time from diagnosis to treatment and level of stigma differing greatly between regions.

The diverse geography of the Philippines often limits access to health-care services and improved interconnectivity between health providers could reduce variations in quality of care across the islands, according to documents provided by Janssen.

The company said the program offers treating physicians a clinical information system to further engage with their patients and offers patients the means to stay connected across remote locations.

Johnson & Johnson Philippines Inc. Managing Director Jeffrey Go said “the collaboration forms part of an ongoing effort to leverage the strengths of Johnson & Johnson and bring forth innovative programs to improve health outcomes.”

PHL sex stance in focus as HIV/AIDS cases rise

HIV in Philippines now a ‘youth epidemic’

MANILA, Philippines – The National Youth Commission (NYC) expressed concern yesterday over the rising number of young Filipinos testing positive for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which it described as a worsening “youth epidemic” in the country.

“The NYC is extremely alarmed by the unprecedented spike in HIV infection among our youth. HIV/AIDS is one of the most urgent concerns facing the Filipino youth today. Our young people are at risk and vulnerable,” chair Aiza Seguerra said.

“The HIV epidemic in our country has a new face and it is the face of a young person,” the NYC chief added.

Citing official statistics, the youth commission
said 62 percent of new HIV cases in the country this year was among young people between 15 and 24 years old.

“Out of the 29 Filipinos who get infected every day in the Philippines, more than half or 19 are 15 to 24 years old. Twenty-five out of the 29 are 15 to 30 years old,” said NYC commissioner Percival Cendaña.

The Department of Health (DOH) projects that more than 55,000 Filipinos will get infected with HIV this year.

According to Antoinette Evangelista, project officer at the DOH’s National AIDS/STI Prevention and Control Program, the agency’s Epidemiology Bureau made the projection based on diagnosed cases reported to the DOH and the trend of the disease in the country.

Fast and furious

“The epidemic is affecting young people at an unprecedented rate,” Cendaña said. “HIV incidence in the country is increasing at a ‘fast and furious’ rate. Even more fast and furious is the rate of infection among our youth.”

Evangelista said the “fast and furious rate” of HIV infections in the country began in 2008.

Seguerra called for immediate and comprehensive interventions to address the epidemic, calling on different stakeholders to help in empowering the youth with the right information to prevent the spread of the virus.

“Unprotected sex is the main driver of the epidemic. We have to enable the youth to make responsible decisions, (ranging) from abstaining from sex to using a condom,” Seguerra said.

Testing for minors

The NYC expressed support for a proposed legislation that would strengthen measures against HIV/AIDS in the country, including allowing minors to have themselves tested without parental consent.

“HIV is not a death sentence. Sexually active young people should get tested. The earlier they know their HIV status, the earlier they can seek care and treatment to improve quality of life,” Cendaña said.

But while they agree to allowing 15 to 17 year olds to avail themselves of HIV testing without parental support, the NYC still believes that those who test positive – especially the youth – should have the support that they can get from their family and friends.

“(But) if parental consent is a deterrent (for minors who wish to get tested), we must remove that,” he said.

He also underscored the need to remove the stigma against the disease, saying it was one of the reasons why the virus continued to spread as people were discouraged from getting tested due to fear of being discriminated against.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros filed Senate Bill 376, or the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Bill, to strengthen the country’s response to the spreading epidemic.

‘Connect for Life’

“We have to look for all of those infected… We encourage people to undergo testing,” Evangelista said during the launch of the “Connect for Life” program of the Philippine General Hospital, Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson and Johnson and Sustained Health Initiatives of the Philippines (SHIP), a non-governmental organization.

Evangelista added those infected but are unaware of it might “unintentionally spread the infection through sexual contact and, in some cases, sharing of needles” among drug users.

Based on a surveillance report of the DOH, there were 3,112 new HIV/AIDS cases documented in July to October, bringing the total this year to 7,756.

The figure also raised to 38,114 the total number of cases since 1984.

Of the 3,112 cases, 333 are already full-blown AIDS when reported to the DOH. Eleven of the cases are less than 11 years old while 885 belong to the 15 to 24 age bracket and 1,637 are 25 to 34.

“The trend is increasing. In 2008, there was only one case per day. In 2010 there were four cases, nine cases in 2012 and 17 in 2014. This year, we have 26 HIV cases daily,” she said.

Evangelista added that since the country documented its first HIV case in 1984, cases were “quite stable – there was low and slow progression of the HIV epidemic” until 2008.

By Janvic Mateo and Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 30, 2016 – 12:00am