OFWs get less funding share in P1-B AIDS advocacy tack

by NIMFA BERNAL
www.ofwjournalism.net

MANILA (OFW Journalism Consortium)—AS the country’s incidence of overseas Filipino workers with HIV is said to “be hidden but growing,” advocates are now focusing on those in the migration stream.

Still, they are getting less than two percent from a P1-billion (nearly $24.4 million) funding pouring into the advocacy to address the human immuno-deficiency virus stalking the people in this stream.

According to documents, of the P849-million funding for the 2007-2008 Aids Medium-Term Plan, only 1.4 percent would go to projects and activities targeting OFWs.

The fourth AMTP developed by the Philippine National Aids Council (PNAC) has allotted just nearly P12 million to fulfill one of the strategies of the AMTP that precisely targets OFWs.

The PNAC is led majority by executives of nonprofit groups and by Department of Health officials.
According to Roderick Poblete of the United Nations Population Fund, the group coordinates the national response to HIV in general, and to HIV and migration in particular.

Majority of the money, he explains, comes from private sources —funding all programs and services for the country’s nearly-3,000 citizens living with the virus and are known to have the acquired immuno-deficiency syndrome, caused by HIV.

Their families, Poblete adds, also become recipient of the funds by way of the projects.

Some 48 percent of that total funding requirement will cover the first strategy of the plan, which is “scale up and improve quality and prevention for most at risk populations (MARPs)”.

Poblete, who is also a medical doctor, said the figures may be small but it reflects an increase compared to previous funding targets.

Work focusing on HIV and migration in the Philippines never enjoyed as much support as before, he added without citing previous figures.

Historically, much of the work on HIV/Aids by non-government groups and government agencies in the Philippines favored those who are living in the country.

New data has changed that bias.

Numbers

THE renewed focus on HIV and migration comes after the HIV/Aids Registry surpassed the 1,000-mark, which raised an alarm from the National Economic Development Authority.

“Six Filipinos were detected with HIV every week. One in three cases was an OFW, mostly seafarers and domestic workers who reportedly had unprotected sexual contact,” a NEDA report on the Millennium Development Goals report wrote.

The year 2006 cases, NEDA’s report suggests, that the infection “has spread, not reversed”.
This year, some 87 new cases were recorded thus far.

According to the DOH Registry, some 1,042 of the recorded 2,997 Filipinos with HIV are OFWs as of October this year.

Of the OFW figures, 340 were seafarers, 178 were domestic employers, 94 were employees, 79 were entertainers, and 64 were health workers.

Some 768 of these OFWs living with HIV are male.

While Poblete downplayed these numbers, he, however, calls for collaboration among several initiatives similar to what PNAC has been doing.

Coordination is “imperative,” Poblete said.

One of these initiatives is the foreign-supported Joint UN (Philippines) Programme on HIV and Migration, which Poblete leads.

Launched March this year by the UN System in the Philippines, this initiative is “a comprehensive package of national as well as local development interventions in selected provinces on HIV prevention, treatment, care and support that can benefit [OFWs] and the community in general.”

According to its working paper, the program hopes to “scale up” community-based HIV and Aids interventions for OFWs.

It also aims to “strengthen the institutional capacities of government agencies like the Department of Labor and Employment, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.”

UN agencies like the UN Development Programme, the UN Population Fund, the UN Children’s Fund, the Joint UN Programme on HIV/Aids (UNAids), and the Office of the Resident Coordinator in the Philippines have chipped in a total $171,000 for the Joint Programme, which targets a $2- million (P82 million at $1=P41) fund for its three-year implementation.

That adds an estimated P27.3 million to what the PNAC would spend next year.

Harmony

ANOTHER funding source is The Global Fund for HIV/Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, based in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Tropical Diseases Foundation handles the Philippine program in coordination with the Philippine NGO Council on Population, Health and Welfare (PNGOC).

Since 2004, the two-phase Philippine programs under the Global Fund have received $8,911,022 (P365.4 million) out of a projected total of $29,985,560 (P1.2 billion) for all HIV-related programs.

The figures come from the website of The Global Fund’s independent watchdog.

That adds nearly P410 million in this year’s spending in the HIV/Aids initiatives.

The Global Fund has reportedly allocated the money for prevention and care, service delivery for HIV patients, information and preventive education, voluntary counseling, and improved blood safety strategies.

The Global Fund’s initiative has OFWs as among the target populations. Commercial sex workers, men having sex with men, injecting drug users, among other groups, are also being targeted.

Another donor organization is the Asian Development Bank, with the lender’s “Corruption Fund for Fighting HIV and Aids in the Pacific,” worth some $8.6 million for regional technical assistance (Reta) projects, having funded 11 countries like the Philippines beginning July.

The Philippine sub-program, says Maria Lourdes Marin of the nonprofit Action for Health Initiatives Inc. (Achieve), will be targeting two target populations –IDUs and OFWs, especially seafarers– through capacity-building for HIV and Aids prevention and care.

The ADB website wrote some $0.6 million (P24.6 million) was allotted for the Philippine sub-program.
These funds for HIV and migration might have already financed the needed amounts for the country’s program for HIV and migration.

But Poblete and Marin call on their colleagues to find ways to harmonize their interventions so that the initiatives do not overlap.

For example, two Global Fund-supported projects on HIV and migration are in the communities of Cebu and Leyte provinces. The ADB-funded program is also targeting OFWs in Cavite, Bohol, and Maguindanao.

The Global Fund’s Philippine project is working in these provinces since these areas compose half of the eleven project sites that have hefty concentrations of OFWs.

“As long as there is discussion and collaboration between stakeholders and multilaterals, no overlapping of initiatives can possibly take place,” Marin says.

What’s important, she adds, is that the projects “complement with each other”.