Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. (PSFI) partnered with Project: Health, Help, Hope, Happiness (Project H4); The Love Yourself Inc. (TLY), the Department of Health (DOH) Region IV-B, and the City Government of Puerto Princesa in setting up Amos Tara!, a community centre designed to address the HIV/AIDS situation  in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.

Every month, there are hundreds of new HIV/AIDS cases in the Philippines. In 2015 alone, 7,829 cases were recorded. Furthermore, in Palawan, HIV continues to thrive, with 40 new cases in 2015. In the same year, figures show that its capital, Puerto Princesa, ranked 3rd out of 36 cities having the highest HIV prevalence among men having sex with men (MSM); this is based on the 2015 Integrated HIV Behavioural Serologic Surveillance (IHBSS) conducted by the Epidemiology Bureau of DOH.

As a response to the need of the community, Project H4, TLY, DOH Region IV-B, and PSFI partnered in setting up a volunteer-run community centre, a safe haven where people can take an HIV test without the fear of being judged or looked down upon. 

Amos Tara! community centre facade
Amos Tara! community centre (Opening hours: Wednesday-Sundays, 8AM-5PM; Location: 41 Abad Santos St., Brgy. Masipag, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan)

Last May 19, we witnessed the inauguration of the community centre, Amos Tara! (“Let’s go!” in Cuyunon), in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. With its welcoming vibe, you would think it is a house. Painted in white with wooden touches and an interior wall painted with Palawan cherry trees and birds, it aims to be a place of recreation, acceptance, and security. In the words of Marvi Trudeau, PSFI Programme Manager, “I hope people don’t see it as an HIV clinic, but a community centre, a youth centre, a place to be happy and safe.” Aside from counselling and testing, Amos Tara!  will be the venue for HIV 101 mini-sessions, which will promote peer education. It also aims to provide livelihood and personality development to the youth.

Present in the launch was Edgardo Veron Cruz, PSFI Executive Director. He talked about how PSFI started to become proactive in fighting HIV/AIDS through its programme, Philippine Business Sector Response (PBSR) to HIV/AIDS. According to him, the course of the organization, business, and even the economy of our nation will be affected if most of our young employees are getting sick. To educate individuals about HIV/AIDS, PSFI launched the said programme with the aim of encouraging companies to have access to information, training, and services, necessary for the institution of Workplace Policies and Programmes on HIV and AIDS.

Speakers during the Amos Tara! launch
Speakers (L-R: Ronivin Pagtahakan, TLY Executive Director; Edgar Veron Cruz, PSFI Executive Director; Dir. Eduardo Janairo, DOH Regional Director – Region IV-B; Calvin June Sintoy, Project H4 Executive Director)

PBSR to HIV/AIDS’ area of coverage was initially focused in NCR. It was then expanded to Batangas and Palawan, as Shell work sites are present in these provinces. Through its involvement in the creation of Amos Tara!, PSFI steps up the fight in helping save lives in the province.

Expressing his joy towards the benefits of meaningful partnerships, the Executive Director of TLY, Ronivin Pagtahakan, said: “When you see the dynamism or flexibility of public-private partnership, you will see the joy in it because people feel safe, people feel accepted; they feel it’s private, but it’s also government, so the accessibility is there, the support is there.”

Also present in the event were Roy Ventura, City Councillor – Puerto Princesa; Calvin June Sintoy, Executive Director, Project H4; and Dir. Eduardo Janairo, Regional Director, DOH Region IV-B. Like what the other speakers pointed out, they highlighted the significance of working together in defeating HIV/AIDS and encouraged everyone to take part in the fight. They also made commitments to provide support to the centre to ensure its success and sustainability.

Get tested to know your status. 15 minutes is all you need to do the test. For further information, contact Stella at 09999955601 or Julius at 09273320578.

By Rachael Nathanielsz

Article published on PSFI news magazine October 2016 issue


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