Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Greetings 2008

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Asian Health Communications Forum

HAIN, in collaboration with Healthlink Worldwide, conducted a "Regional Forum on Increasing Access to Practical Health Information" last November 27-28, 2008 at the Bayview Park Hotel in Manila.

The forum aimed to examine the impact of Health Alert and learning from the magazine; identify issues and challenges faced in health communication and ways of addressing these; and to build networks or determining ways of linking with existing networks to continue learning and sharing.

At the forum, HAIN executive director, Dr. Edelina dela Paz, presented the curent health situation in the region. The 20 participants from Philippines, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and China have also exchanged insights and shared among each other their organizational and individual experiences in providing health information to the people.

The Health Alert Asia Pacific newsletter, published by HAIN since 2003, provides up-to-date, relevant and accurate health information for health, community and education workers in Asia and the Pacific. It is being distributed to more than 50 countries.

From the discussions, it showed that Health Alert has been utilized to brought some issues to the fore which might have been ignored otherwise. Obviously the issues would be relevant too to the Asia Pacific region, but it is also possible to relate
the issues happening in other parts of the world. Health Alert puts that in context.

Deepthi Wickermasinghe of Healthlink Worldwide (UK)discussed the new technologies in health communication which can be useful in our region. She also shared knowledge of the tools and online resources that they are using in London.

The session on country sharing highlighted the challenges faced by different organization, such as the difficulty of working simultaneously as an advocate and information provider, or the sustainability of a network.

Monday, November 17, 2008

New publication: Revisiting USOG, PASMA, KULAM

by Michael L. Tan

This book looks at folk illness in the Philippines including, as the title suggests, usog, pasma, and kulam. Rather than looking at these folk illnesses as "superstitions," Tan explains the boarder social and cultural contexts of these concepts. He discusses these illnesses according to their perceived causes, broadly grouping them into three clusters, mystical, personalistic, and naturalistic.

Tan uses different social science perspectives to explore the deeper meanings of these illnesses, including their links to social norms, tensions, and conflicts. He emphasizes, too, that far from being static, these folk illnesses continue to evolve, influenced by Western medicine as well as new images surrounding health and illnesses that come with mass media and advertising. Finally, he calls attention to a medical ecological perspective, looking at how our changing relationships with the natural environment also lead to modifications in the folk illnesses.

Besides reviewing the extensive social science studies that have been conducted on these folk illnesses, Tan also refers to the more limited, but still significant, biomedical studies that explore some of these illnesses, for example, bangungot, showing that theses syndromes often have a physiological basis and needed to be
recognized by health professionals.

For more information on how to acquire/purchase the publication
Please contact: University of the Philippines Press los Santos St., UP Campus, Diliman, Quezon City
Telephone no: 9282558; 9253243
Cost: P190.00

New publication: Medicinal Fruits & Vegetables

by Jaime Galvez Tan & Ma. Rebecca M. Galvez Tan

Medicinal Fruits and Vegetables features sixty of the most commonly available and vegetables traditionally used as both food and medicine. Each fruits and vegetables is detailed according to its botanical family, scientific name, nomenclatures in different languages and Filipino dialects, traditional medicine uses, contemporary research findings, food and nutrition values, recommended medicinal use, and botanical and agricultural characteristics. There are also helpful, easy to follow instruction on how to prepare medicinal plants at home by transforming them into decoctions, infusions, syrups, herbal baths, oils, and alcohol extracts.

Evidence-based medicine has proven that daily intake of fruits and vegetables prevents many chronic diseases such as heart disease, hypertension and cancer. Their generous consumption contributes to the slowing down of the aging process. Aside from the micronutrients, all fruits and vegetables contain varying amounts of powerful vitamins, minerals, phythochemicals and anti-oxidants. The healing benefits of fruits and vegetables that our forefathers, grandmothers and traditional healers imparted to us are now being scientifically proven as truly efficacious.

This book aims to encourage a second look at fruits and vegetables. They are excellent functional foods and are safe and effective medicines as well. Fruits and vegetables are also our natural living assets and Gods gifts for total health, wellness, and well-being.

For more information on how to acquire the publication
Please contact: Health Futures Foundation, Inc.
1086 Del Monte Ave., Quezon City

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Setting RH Advocacy to the Media

Health Action Information Network (HAIN) has recently conducted the “News for a Change: RH Advocates’ Training-Workshop on Writing for Media” in collaboration with IIE-LDM and with support from IFPLP-Packard Foundation.

Twenty RH advocates from Metro Manila, Visayas and Mindanao joined the training. This trained aimed at the following objectives:

 To increase the knowledge and understanding of the interplay and complexities between religious history, theology, arguments, policies, issues and practices surrounding reproductive rights and health,
 To sharpen advocacy messages on RH,
 To strengthen RH advocates skills on writing for media, and
 To consolidate and build solidarity among information officers creating a network of writers’ pool and public speakers.

The workshop started with a “Walking Tour” in Intramuros headed by Carlos Celdran where he offered a historical perspective on the country’s colonial past which continues to influence the social, moral, and religious mores.

Connecting the past to present, Ms. Dulce Natividad (Women’s Health Care Foundation) discussed how the country’s past policies and programs influence the present RH situation and advocacy.

Afterwards, the participants Vigie Benosa (PLCPD) and Rikki Trinidad (HAIN) gave an overview of the present situation of RH, the issues it faced, and how these issues were covered by mass media. Atty. Carolina “Carol” Ruiz-Austria shared tips on blogging sexual rights and reproductive health.

Writing for media was the focus of the second day’s training-workshop. There were two resource speakers: Luz Rimban and Yvonne “Bon” Chua, both acclaimed journalists from VERA Files.

Rimban dug into the different forms and the reality of media: print, television, radio, and Internet; the people working behind news reporting; what makes news newsworthy; and the audience. She introduced what press release is, how it differs from press statement and media advisory, and most importantly, its usefulness in promoting the advocacy.

Chua recalled her experience of attending press conferences conducted by NGOs and used them as samples in her discussion on Media Tools: How to Start your Information System. She tackled the proper ways of putting up one fruitful press conference while giving so much emphasis on the importance of understanding the schedule of invited journalists. She also presented the “standard format” for writing press releases starting from punctuation marks to delivery via e-mail.

The room was divided into two groups wherein each participant was asked to present her/his output for critiquing. This workshop helped the participants have the chance to spot and correct the committed errors.

At the end of the day, the participants shared the lessons they obtained and how they could use and integrate them in their chosen professions.

On the third last day Frank Cimatu (Philippine Daily Inquirer-Baguio) helped the participants critiqued the presented blog articles which were homework from Day 1 of the workshop.

At the end of the workshop, the group decided to create a group blogsite where they would post RH articles and updates from their work.

Training-Workshop on Research Methods for RH

HAIN conducted the 14th short course on Research Methods on October 6-17 at teh Supreme Hotel in Baguio City.

Twenty-three participants from NCR, Baguio, Bohol, Iloilo, Cebu, Davao and Cagayan de Oro joined the two-week training workshop.

The training-workshop aimed to build research capabilities of the participants to enable them to strengthen their programs on sexual and reproductive health.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tsunami postscript: Rebuilding a nation after a disaster

The December 2004 tsunami generated an unprecedented challenge for the countries affected in terms of a staggering human death toll, displacement and destroyed infrastructure and assets.

In Sri Lanka, the tsunami affected around one million people and devastated over two thirds of the country’s coastline. In its aftermath, more than 1,500 children were orphaned; more than 35,000 lives were lost; while another 20,000 were injured. Common infrastructure and public utility supplies were severely affected, further hampering relief and rescue missions in remote coastal areas. The total cost of relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in Sri Lanka was estimated at around USD 2.2 billion.

Tsunami-affected areas were vulnerable to the spread of communicable diseases with the displacement of people, deterioration of sanitary conditions, lack of clean drinking water and shelter, disruption of health infrastructure resulting in a delayed and ad hoc distribution of medical aid. With this backdrop, the government was faced with an enormous challenge of addressing the immediate health needs of affected populations.

To control the spread of diseases among the displaced, essential supplies and medicines were distributed:
• mosquito nets
• emergency first aid kit
• malaria kits
• chlorine tablets
• testing and sanitation kits
• vitamins

Rebuilding a nation
After the initial relief stage, which focused on bringing immediate relief to the people, the government commenced the next stage: rebuilding a nation battered by tsunami.

Recovery and reconstruction activities were organized under four thematic areas: getting people back into their homes, restoring livelihoods, health and education-protection, and national infrastructure development. The government and development partners also worked on a number of cross-cutting themes such as environment, gender, legal aspects, and disaster preparedness.

A round-the-clock tsunami operation cells were established in each district, with teams and working groups tasked to oversee the distribution of medical donations and supplies. Together with its development partners, the Ministry of Health (MoH) identified medium and long term priorities to attend to:

• Restoration of services and reconstruction/renovation of health clinics and hospitals completely or partially damaged by the disaster
• Provision of essential medical supplies and drugs
• Mobility of medical teams and personnel
• Health protection and disease prevention of over 500,000 internally-displaced population (IDP)
• Addressing the mental and psychosocial needs of the affected communities
• Restoration and improving basic health and nutrition services and interventions
• Developing an early warning system and disaster management unit in the MoH

However, there were also a number of issues faced by the government and the development partners, for which possible solutions were found. Some of the issues were coordination of health activities at all levels soon after the disaster, developing, communicating and maintaining standards to all stakeholders, construction and rehabilitation of health facilities, addressing the human resource shortages, emergency preparedness system and plan, logistics and distribution, monitoring of IDPs’ health and quality of life and ensuring the sustainability of services.

Relief partners
The massive outpouring of assistance from civil society and the response of the international community with humanitarian aid including rescue teams, medical and food supplies, equipment and personnel was exemplary. This demonstration of human solidarity and kindness helped to curb any outbreak of disease among affected communities. The health practices and knowledge of the people also contributed to reduce health risks.

Responding to the crisis, partner-organizations of the People’s Health Movement (PHM) – Sri Lanka established centers to assist the displace. Sarvodaya, one Sri Lanka’s biggest charities and a member of the PHM, worked to sustain the displaced by providing cooked meals, clothing, and attending to their basic health needs. Special attention was paid to maternal and infant care. As it was necessary to maintain good health and hygiene practices amongst the displaced people information campaigns were conducted in the tsunami shelter sites. Awareness among the residents were raised by distributing leaflets and posters in the sites. Volunteers from Sarvodaya also visited these sites providing health education to the displaced.
On long term reconstruction and recovery efforts Sarvodaya constructed shelters, preschools and playgrounds. The beneficiaries also received household utensils and educational material.

Article by: Gireesha de Silva, Issue 12, Health Alert Asia Pacific
For request of copies of Health Alert Asia Pacific, you may write to
Reference: Post Tsunami Recovery and Reconstruction, December 2006
Photo courtesy of Sarvodaya

Friday, September 12, 2008


While proponents of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) claim that the pact will create more opportunities for local nurses by allowing them to enter the Japanese market, a study by a Japanese university shows that foreign nurses in Japan face exploitative work conditions and even discrimination.

A study by the University of Kitakyushu in Japan found out that employment programs involving foreign nurses and caregivers have resulted in trainees being forced to work long hours. The Japanese government has also refused to guarantee minimum wage levels, while exorbitant fees of at least 58,000 yen (PhP 23,200) are deducted from the nurses’ salaries every month.

Exploitation of foreign workers on training programs has also been prevalent. Indonesian trainees in Japan , for instance, have reportedly experienced physical abuse and been forced to render unpaid overtime, while others have been denied such basic rights as freedom of movement. Meanwhile, non-Japanese in the bigger cities are reportedly subject to racial profiling by being asked to produce their foreign registration cards or passports, which must be carried at all times.

Part of government’s hype is that with the JPEPA, 400 Filipino nurses and 600 caregivers will be allowed to enter Japan for training for over two years. However, the receiving scheme for health workers states that they must work as trainees in designated institutions, undergo six months of Japanese language training and pass the national certification tests before they can qualify as nurse or caregiver. Although they are already working during this time they will be receiving pay only as a non-licensed worker or trainee or candidate, or as nurse’s aides and caregiver’s assistants.

According to research group IBON, senators debating on the JPEPA should see that the inclusion of nurses in the JPEPA is a deceptive provision that offers uncertain benefits, made only to sweeten the blatantly one-sided, pro-Japan deal. Using Filipino nurses as a justification for approving JPEPA highlights how the Philippine government is willing to sacrifice the welfare of its citizens as well as to cover up for its severe failure in generating jobs and supporting the country’s health system. (end)

The No Deal! Movement for Unequal Economic Agreements in cooperation with the La Sallian Justice and Peace Commission and Benedictines for Peace invite you to the forum 'JPEPA: Deal or No Deal? The People's Issues', 9 am -12 pm, Sept. 12 at the Fajardo Gonzales Auditorium, DLSU Manila. The program includes discussion on the Senate hearings and the presentation of a manifesto on JPEPA.

Source of article: Ibon Foundation listserve

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Smart Chart Asia Meeting

Master trainers of Smart Chart Approach to Strategic Communications in Asia met in Manila for a three-day meeting on August 26-30 at the Shangrila Hotel. One of the objectives of the meeting is to foster greater use of strategic tools like the Smart Chart and other communications best practices in the Philippines, India and Pakistan.

HAIN leads the Smart Chart project in the Philippines. Similar health NGOs also lead the project in Pakistan (Rozan) and India (Population Foundation of India).

The meeting also facilitated sharing of experiences using the Smart Chart, as well as lessons learned from trainings of master trainers. This meeting was conducted in collaboration with the Communications Leadership Institute, a communications firm based in Washington D.C.

The meeting was structured and facilitated with an emphasis on peer learning and exchange, and include practical support for next steps the in-country partners want to take to advance their work in their home countries.

The meeting provided an opportunity for Smart Chart trainers in Asia to review the work done in Smart Chart and to learn more techniques in facilitating Smart Chart training.

Representatives from each participating country presented a brief overview of how they started their work in conducting Smart Chart training and promoting the approach to various advocacy groups.

CLI shared their own experiences with assessment of effectiveness and discussion about challenges faced by different countries. The three countries also shared the tools they have developed for assessment and evaluation of their own Smart Chart Trainings.

Each country presented a complete Smart Chart training as a team with their own fully developed case study and local examples.

The participants also facilitated peer-to-peer workshops on opposition messaging, and developing case studies.

Training on Research Methods

Health Action Information Network (HAIN) will be conducting a training-workshop on Research Methods for Sexual and Reproductive Health which will be held on October 6-18,2008 in Baguio City.

The training-workshop aims to build research capabilities of the participants to enable them to strengthen their programs on sexual and reproductive health. During the course, participants will be introduced to quantitative (surveys) and qualitative (FGDs, ethnography, life histories, content analysis) research skills, including actual application through fieldwork.

For more information, please write to HAIN and contact Ms Nilda de Vera at or or fax to number (02) 952-6409. If you have any clarifications, please do not hesitate to contact us at telephone numbers (02) 952-6312 or 952-6409.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Sign the Petition for the Passage of RH Bill

Dear friends,


The struggle for the passage of the Reproductive Bill (RH) in Congress rages on. The Reproductive Health Advocacy Network (RHAN) initiated an online petition that we request you to support by attaching your signature.

Please go to http://www.Petition to do this.

We hope to gather ONE MILLION SIGNATURES to show our legislators that there is a wide support base for the bill's passage despite what the opposition says. We will present the signatures both to the House of Representatives (HOR) and Senate within September as we are waiting for the schedule of plenary deliberations in the HOR and the release of the Senate Committee on Health's report.

Please support the petition. It will not take more than 5 minutes of your time. More than 10 women die daily due to pregnancy and childbirth-related causes. The big bulk of those who die are poor women at the prime of their lives. This is simply unacceptable and must be stopped. Congress has the power to do this. Kindly forward this mail to all your friends.

Thank you very much.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Access to Low Cost Medicines Workshop

It was unity and diversity both at work in the MeTA-sponsored civil society skills-building workshop on improving access to low cost medicine. The workshop was held at the Meralco Management Leadership and Development Center (MMLDC) in Antipolo City last June 3 to 10, 2008. Twenty-three representatives from Peru, Kyrgyztan, Jordan and the Philippines broke down cultural barriers and country differences as they worked at identifying strategies toward the common goal of improving access to low cost quality medicines for their respective citizens.

This workshop actually dovetailed a similar activity held in Uganda, February of this year that had similar objectives, basically, to equip civil society organizations with knowledge and skills to promote greater transparency, accountability and efficiency on the issue of access to medicines in the pilot countries that included the Philippines.

Jordan with a sparse population of six million and basically ran by a monarchy has a High Health Council headed by the Prime Minister that ensures access to medicines as part of the general health services. Kyrgyztan is another country with a small population of roughly five million that became sovereign as a result of the Soviet Union break-up in 1991. The latter, with relatively new democracy has a young Civil Society that is still getting its act together and has not much experience yet on political exercises like networking, organizing and lobbying. The five-women delegation, three with medical background and two consumer advocates, seem to show a middle-class face of civil society in their country with limited engagement of the sectors at the lower rung. They were however, intent on learning from the other MeTA country representatives, techniques and methods on advocacy and organizing.

The Peru representation of three, on the other hand, asserts that NGOs are very much alive in their country and one important concern is access of low cost, quality medicines for women of reproductive age. The Philippines, as the host country, had the biggest number of delegates representing the multi-sector stakeholders in the issue of low-cost, quality medicines. It was acknowledged indeed, that we have a very rich experience as far as advocacy and political engagement are concerned, especially, in grassroots organizing which is a major and essential component of our NGO work.

The workshop is part of a two-year programme by the MeTA or Medicines Transparency Alliance in promoting a “multi-stakeholder approach towards increasing transparency around the regulation, selection, procurement, sale, distribution and use of medicines in developing countries, thereby strengthening governance, encouraging responsible business practices and ultimately improving access to medicines, especially for the poor.

Serving as Secretariat for the 10-day activity was HAIN, with resource persons and observers representing local agencies like the Philippine Health Insurance, Bureau of Food and Drugs, Zuellig Foundation, Transparency International and international organizations like Health Action International, WHO, DFID and OxFam. Andrew Chetley and Wilbert Bannenberg of MeTA International served as general workshop directors.

Monday, July 21, 2008

World Population Day Celebrated

HAIN participated in the World Population Day week-long celebration from July 7 until July 11, 2008 in the city of Manila entitled “Family Planning: Karapatan Ko, Karapatan mo, Gawing Totoo”. The said event was organized by the Reproductive Health Advocacy Network (RHAN) wherein HAIN is the Chair of the Public Information and Education Committee. RHAN is a coalition of 40 non-government organizations and civic groups advocating for reproductive health and rights. RHAN also leads the campaign for the passage of national legislation on reproductive health (RH) and other issues pertaining to it.

During the week-long celebration, RHAN made the symbolic effort to denounce Executive Order 003 imposed by Manila City former Mayor Lito Atienza in 2000. The city ordinance discouraged the use of contraceptives by his constituents leading to a virtual ban. Atienza also campaigned among the people that artificial methods of family planning are against the law and the pro-life principles of the Catholic Church. For eight years, Manila residents were deprived of artificial family planning commodities, information and services resulting in unplanned pregnancies, marital squabbling and neglected children.

The celebration kicked-off with a 4-day exhibit featuring IEC materials from RHAN and the City Health Office of Manila and a forum on reproductive health at the City College of Manila. Several NGOs, GOs, and the academe especially students participated in the festive activity.

On July 11, Manila held its first family planning fair after Mayor Alfredo Lim lifted Executive Order 003. Around 700 women crowded the Tondo Sports Complex to avail of free contraceptive pills, condoms and reading materials, legal advice on VAW, adolescent reproductive health information, vasectomy and tubal ligation counseling and referrals, IUD and injectables as well as natural family planning method from health, legal and social workers and volunteers of RHAN and the City Health Office of Manila. The residents in poor communities acted on their need at the first opportunity offered them and exercised informed choice and basic right on reproductive health especially family planning during the culminating activity of the World Population day.

A signature campaign in support of the passage of the RH bill was also gathered during the week-long celebration.

RHAN shall therefore intensify its information and education campaign together with the city of Manila officials and residents so as to debunk the notion that artificial methods of family planning are against the law and immoral. RHAN will still continue its effort in helping local government units for the promotion and provision of RH needs and rights.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

2008 UNGASS Country Progress Reports on AIDS

The Philippines, through a multisectoral effort, has successfully submitted the official country progress report to UNAIDS (see previous articles on the process and the different activities conducted in developing the report). In submitting data, the country used CRIS or the Country Response Information System software. The narrative report was also submitted. UNGASS requires the submission of country reports every two years for the monitoring of progress towards the UNGASS Declaration of Commitment adopted by member states in 2001.

The report may be accessed at A printed summary of the report was also produced to highlight key findings.

Copies of the report in CD-ROM format and the printed summary of the report may be requested from PNAC:

Dr. Jessie F. Fatone
M&E Officer
PNAC Secretariat
Bldg. 15 Deparment of Health
San Lazaro Compound, Sta. Cruz
Manila, Philippines
Telephone – (02) 743-0512
Email -

The CD-ROM contains the 2006 Progress Report and other related documents used in the development and preparation of the report. The development of the report was coordinated by Health Action Information Network in partnerhsip with TLF-Share Collective and PNAC.

Monday, July 14, 2008

New Materials at the HAIN Resource Center

Title of the Book: Redefining AIDS in Asia: Crafting an Effective Response Report of the Commission on AIDS in Asia

Principal Editor: Hein Marais
Publisher: Oxford University Press, New Delhi 2008

Summary: The Commission on AIDS in Asia was constituted to review and assess the impact of AIDS in Asia. This comprehensive study deepens and refines the understanding of Asia’s pandemic and pinpoints critical components of a viable and sustainable long-term response that can curb AIDS in Asia. It includes key implementation strategies at both the policy and operational levels for stronger response to HIV and AIDS.

The Commission concludes that among the 23 Asian countries covered under this Report, each were capable of mobilizing resources and adopting the technologies needed to win the battle against AIDS if their leaders show strong political commitment and determination, and adopt it as a priority in their political agenda.

Title of the Book: Asia Pacific Civil Society and 2008 UNGASS on HIV and AIDS

Prepared by: Asia Pacific of AIDS Service Organizations, April 2008

Summary: A general overview of the analysis and outcomes of the processes for the development of the 2008 UNGASS Reports from 25 countries in Asia and Pacific. It was noted that the current Country Reports has improved reflecting improved data collection, increased political commitment and the willingness to acknowledge key areas of weakness in national responses including the need to involve civil society organizations, PLHIV and vulnerable groups.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

RGS batch BabaylangVeronica

HAIN conducted the 10th training-workshop on Religion, Gender and Sexuality last July 2-5 in Davao City. Twenty reproductive health advocates participated the workshop. The group is called babaylangVeronica.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The 567 Group’s Fight for AIDS

The 567 group was established in November 2003 to address the need to have a support group for the people living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHAs) in Vietnam. The 567 group is composed of parents of PLWHAs who live in wards 5, 6 and 7 of Vung Tau city. A ward is equivalent to a barangay in the Philippines.

In a brief encounter with Mr. Dzung Chi, an officer of the 567 group, he discussed the history and objective of the group. The group organizes and provides care and treatment, including antiretroviral, to PLWHAs from Vung Tau, Tien Giang and Ca Mau who in the past needed to go to Ho Chi Minh City for support services. Located several hours away from Ho Chi Minh, Mr. Chi lamented that Vung Tau lack access to health services.

Another objective of 567 is to make other people understand about HIV/AIDS and ARVs to gather more support for the PLWHAs.

Aside from health service, the group also encourage PLWHAs to avail the free services, plan treatment schedules for new patients, provide counseling for individuals and groups of patients and their relatives, link patients to other needed services, and help patients on drug compliance.

The home-based care and support is an effective way of helping each other so that mothers of PLWHAs can better take care of their children. They also establish partnerships with other groups such as GIPA.

One concrete example of their activity is having a pilot group of goodwill volunteers supporting HIV/AIDS testing and treatment at clinic No. 8 of the Tropical Diseases Hospital which specializes in AIDS treatment of South Vietnam. The clinic gathers many well-experienced doctors and implements many small and big projects on HIV/AIDS.
A lot of the patients received treatment at the clinic No.8. Some patients have been receiving treatment for more than six years at this clinic.

While 567 Group receives financial support from VCSPA & HAVAG, they also aim to be self-sustainable by putting up a coffee shop in Ho Chi Minh.

Friday, June 27, 2008

AIDS Programme Vietnam

AIDS Programme Vietnam is an NGO based at the central district of Ho Chi Min City. Its vision is towards the empowerment of the poor to achieve a quality life. Its mission is to increase knowledge of the people particularly the people living with HIV (PLHIV). It also addresses related issues such as women and children’s rights, prevention, treatment, care and support of HIV and STIs (sexually transmitted infections). AIDS Programme makes sure that their programs and projects are aligned with the National AIDS Programme.

The organization provides services to seven slum areas in Ho Chi Min City. Its services include capability building on methods of communication, social networking, harm reduction, literacy and other relevant issues. They also have a Savings and Credit Program or the Microlending which have 35 group memberships. This, they believe will contribute to the empowerment of the people. The organization also provides academic scholarships to deserving students in the community. They give one scholarship for every community. Currently, they have a total of 45 scholarship awards. For those who are out-of-school-youth they help provide vocational trainings such as mechanics. Some of them have finished school and have rendered services to the organization either as employees or volunteers.

With AIDS Programme Vietnam’s many projects, the organization has adapted the participatory approach where they opened their organization to volunteers who are willing to serve the community. The organization has 10 full time staff and is augmented by 20 volunteers who provide assistance to women’s groups, children in school, to PLHIV, especially home care services to 150 PLHIVs. The volunteers live with the community.

The organization has also partnered with HIV/AIDS Vietnam Action Group (HAVAG) which is based in Hanoi. HAVAG provides technical assistance to AIDS Programme in training, harm reduction, peer education and communication.

One of the major projects of the organization is the procurement of ARVs from drug companies at a lesser price, which is 15-25% cheaper. This is to ensure that even PLHIVs with low income can still access ARVs including access to opportunistic infection drugs for free.

The organization also publish newsletter both in electronic and in print format. The newsletter is written in Vietnamese. They said that though many Vietnamese cannot read English well, they also welcome materials from other organizations.

IDU or injecting drug use is high in HCMC. Being one of the major modes of transmission, the organization has also implemented programs for IDU which is community based. This includes support for detoxification and needle exchange. However, IDUs still live in the shadows, and so this program is carefully implemented. Bringing needles for the needle exchange program is illegal and can put the peer educators at risk when delivering services.

The organization believes that it still has many works to do in response to AIDS. They also believe that change cannot be achieved immediately but slowly, they hope to have a non-discriminatory society for people living with HIV.

For more info, please contact AIDS Programme Vietnam, 54/32 Le Quang Dinh., Binh Thanh., HCMC, Vietnam
Telefax: 84.8.8416158
Contact persons: Ms. Ngyuyen Thi Kim Dung and Mr. Tran Thai Hiep

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

HAIN Chairs Public Information and Education Committee of RHAN

The Health Action Information Network was elected this year as the Chair of the Public Information and Education Committee of the Reproductive Health Advocacy Network (RHAN). The Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP) was elected as Secretary-General which was relinquished by the Health Development Initiatives, Inc (HDII).

RHAN is a network of 41 organizations and individuals working on reproductive health issues in the Philippines and was formally organized in 2002.

The other committee chairs elected include LIKHAAN (Linangan ng Kababaihan, Inc.), PNGOC (Philippine NGO Council on Population, Health and Welfare), PILAKK (Pinagsamang Lakas ng Kababaihan at Kabataan), and ZOTO (Zone I Tondo) which will lead the Legal and Policy Advocacy, Networking, Constituency Building, and RHAN Youth Committee, respectively. The 2-year term of the secretary-general and the different committees of RHAN will end in 2010.

The different members of the Public Information and Education Committee includes 13 NGOs namely Woman Health Philippines, Demographic Research and Development Foundation Foundation, Inc. (DRDF), Women’s Media Circle (WMC), PNGOC, PILAKK, LIKHAAN, DSWP, Creative Collective center Inc. (CCCI), Institute for Social Studies and Action (ISSA), Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Pangligal (SALIGAN), women’s legal education, Advocacy and Defense Foundation, Inc. (WomenLEAD), and Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP)

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Visit to Marie Stopes in Ho Chi Minh City

Marie Stopes (MS) International is one of the largest international family planning organizations in the world. In 2006 alone, the organization provided nearly five million people in almost 38 countries with high quality health services, including family planning; safe abortion & post-abortion care; maternal & child health care including safe delivery and obstetrics; diagnosis & treatment of sexually transmitted infections; and HIV/AIDS prevention.

In Vietnam, MS was established in 1989 in Hanoi. It offers various services such as family planning; abortion; health screening; HIV/STIs; maternal health; primary health care; social franchising; young people reproductive health. Its primary objective is to increase awareness/availability of quality HIV/AIDS information and Voluntary Confidential Testing (VCT) services and to improve access to quality maternal and child health services.

Entering the building, Marie Stopes (MS) office/clinic in Ho Chi Minh City looks cool, comfy and friendly. It’s something that you would want to stay in at even if going there could stigmatize you because the organization is identified to abortion services (abortion is legal in Vietnam). Enticing too are the multi-colored office walls, the welcoming lounge area, and the interesting design of the filing cabinet.

The lobby of the clinic also has a computer with Internet connection so that companions of the clients will not get bored and still get to be informed while waiting.

There are two MS clinics in Ho Chi Minh City and the one we visited is the newly inaugurated clinic located in District 1 which is about 30 minutes away from the city proper. There are a total of seven MS clinics all over Vietnam. These clinics offer a full range of reproductive health services including family planning and contraceptive methods, general reproductive health checks including breast screening and pap smears, safe abortions and post abortion care, ante-natal check-ups and HIV testing and counseling services.

The five-story MS building has ultrasound room, examination room for Pap smear and prenatal check ups, and an operating room (i.e. safe abortion) which all look clean and safe.

The counseling room is cozy and relaxing for anyone who needs enlightenment of the mind and heart. The staff said they do not get the names of the clients to ensure confidentiality.

On an average day, they receive 20 clients. MS only charges minimum amount to their clients because their operations is being subsidized by funding agencies. This is to make their services affordable to the people and to be competitive with other private clinics. The clinic is open everyday.

Contraceptives are widely available in Vietnam. IUD and pills are the most commonly used contraceptives. MS sells condoms and pills in their clinic at an affordable price.

MS does not sell emergency contraceptive pills in a large scale since the sale of this product is restricted in Vietnam because it is classified as prescription drugs. Clients could buy the emergency contraceptive pill in government clinics and drugstores. A package of emergency contraceptive pills cost about $20 per dose.

While the Catholic Church community in Vietnam also opposes the distribution and use of contraceptives, they do not make much of an influence in government policy when it comes to family planning programs. The Vietnamese government encourages couples to only have two children to curb population growth.

MS also offer telephone hotline for counseling and quick referrals. For instance, they refer their clients from a distant place to other clinics where they can easily avail of RH services.

Abiding by the thrust of Marie Stopes International, the MS in Ho Chi Minh City aims to ensure the widest possible access by providing a range of information and innovative services. Aside from clinical services and contraceptive distribution, they also conduct community education and other advocacy activities. Their projects involve collaboration with different government agencies and private institutions (i.e. Adidas).

by: Joyce P. Valbuena

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Smart Chart Level Up

HAIN recently organized training on advanced strategic communications. Nine participants who have already undergone Smart Chart training were selected to attend this peer learning activity. The training aimed to ensure that reproductive health advocates are not only able to successfully use the Smart Chart but are also able to train their colleagues to use the tool to develop strong communications programs.

Resource Speakers from the Communications Leadership Institute (CLI), a communications firm based in Washington DC, came to the Philippines to help move to the next level the confidence and skills of the Smart Chart participants. The two-day training was designed to support the practitioners and position them for leadership among their peers.

CLI oriented the participants on the version 3.0 of Smart Chart. It was also a venue for the participants to share their experiences in teaching Smart Chart and exchange case studies that could be useful in future training. The participants also learned tips on presentation skills and adapting Smart Chart to local audiences.

Smart Chart is a tool in strategic communications planning. In 2006 and 2007, HAIN has trained about 200 reproductive health advocates with this tool to help them advance their program goals.

The activity is part of HAIN’s ongoing project with the Packard Foundation which aims to promote effective education and advocacy on population and reproductive health issues in the Philippines. The workshop was held at the Meralco Management and Development Center in Antipolo City last June 2 to 3.

In August of this year, CLI will facilitate a three-day regional workshop for the master trainers from each of Packard Foundation’s in-country partner (Philippines, India and Pakistan). The focus of this meeting will be to share experiences using the Smart Chart, as well as lessons learned from trainings of master trainers. The meeting will be structured and facilitated with an emphasis on peer learning and exchange.

Promoting Greater Involvement of People Living with HIV in Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam and is located near the Mekong Delta. It is also the center of trade and industry with 82 million total populations. According to the 2007 Family International Report, there is an estimate 72,400 HIV and AIDS cases in the country. With this increasing alarming concern of the epidemic, the United Nations’ Greater Involvement of PLHIV (GIPA) Project under the Ho Chi Minh Women’s Union continues to strengthen its advocacy work and collaboration with local civil society organizations on the prevention and control of HIV and AIDS in the country.

Last May 14, 2008, the Health Action Information Network (HAIN) had an opportunity to learn the initiatives and experiences of GIPA Vietnam. Mr. Enrico Caja, GIPA coordinator and its local counterpart Ms. Nguyen Vu Huong Giang led the presentation and facilitated the open forum. GIPA’s objectives are to increase access to treatment and services; lessen stigma and discrimination towards PLHIVs; increase understanding and support for GIPA; and promote volunteerism and participation among PLHIVs on HIV and AIDS activities. With the help of its international partners like UN Volunteers and Euro-Asia AIDS Cooperation, GIPA performs the following initiatives: provides a venue for PLHIV Interaction, counseling and referral, information sharing through IEC materials and website, capacity building, network and collaboration, advocacy programs, volunteer promotion and organizing support groups of families and PLHIVs.

Friday, May 30, 2008

25th International AIDS Candlelight Memorial

May 23rd 2008 marked the 25th International AIDS Candlelight Memorial at Quirino Grandstand, Luneta Park, Manila where hundreds of people commemorate the theme, “Never Give Up, Never Forget”. It unveiled the experiences of collective efforts and reminds us that we must learn from the past and never give up as we enter a new generation with the disease.

The Candlelight Memorial began in 1983 during a time of confusion and misconception about a mysterious disease sweeping the gay population in San Francisco in the United States. Four young men named Bobbi Campbell, Bobby Reynolds, Dan Turner and Mark Feldman coordinated a small vigil and marched down the Castro District to City Hall behind a banner reading “Fighting for Our Lives.” This drew thousands, beginning a candlelight movement that would inspire other people living with HIV/AIDS in other countries to bring the disease into the light for communities and national leaders, to foster support, and move people to action. The Candlelight Memorial was managed by an organization named Mobilization against AIDS until the Council began organizing the event in 2000.*

Rich in attendance were civil society organizations, students, men in uniform, and government agencies who all showed their support to those living with HIV and AIDS as well as to remember those who have lost their lives to the disease.

Aside from singing, dancing, and testimonials from People Living with HIV (PLHIV), the evening also highlighted the unfolding of hand-made quilts led by members of Pinoy Plus Association in remembrance of those who have died from AIDS. Afterwards, representatives from different sectors lined up and took turns to light their candles. The Grandstand was filled with light of remembrance, community mobilization, and global solidarity.

* Excerpts from

State of HIV and AIDS 2008, Philippines

It was a well-attended event where representatives from government offices, United Nations and bilateral organizations, media and civil society organizations gathered to attend the “Integrated HIV Behavioral and Serologic Surveillance (IHBSS) and 2008 United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) Country Progress Report National Dissemination Forum” which took place at the Pearl Manila Hotel. The Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC) and the National Epidemiology Center (NEC) of the Department of Health organized the whole day activity to share the results of the Country Report and AIDS Registry as well as gather further inputs and recommendations on the current HIV and AIDS situation.

Ms. Noemi Bayoneta-Leis from the Health Action Information Network (HAIN) and project coordinator of the 2008 UNGASS presented the process and comparison between 2005 and 2008 UNGASS indicators results. Dr. Jessie Fantone of the PNAC Secretariat cited the regional AIDS situation as well as gave recognition to the organizations who have participated in the Good Practices documentation.

Dr. Eric Tayag, Director IV of NEC reported that there are 782 Filipinos who have died of AIDS since 1984. To date, the prevalence of HIV and AIDS in the country is less than 0.01%, yet trends are suggesting that the numbers of cases are on the rise. In previous years an average of 20 cases were being reported monthly. However, in 2007 this figure increased to 29 cases per month.

Dr. Tayag was also joined by Dr. Genesis Samonte of NEC for the updates on the Philippine HIV and AIDS Registry 2007 Annual Report. Ms. Nimfa Ogena of the University of the Philippines Population Institute presented the preliminary result of a study on knowledge on HIV, condom use and risky behavior among the most at risk population (MARP).

Moreover, Health and Development Initiatives Institute Executive Director Gladys Malayang shared to the audience about a new project on information database which is designed to post updates about the HIV and AIDS activities of NGOs all over the country.

As reactors to the presentations, Undersecretary Austere Panadero of Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Dr. Gerald Belimac of National AIDS STI Prevention and Control Programme (NASPCP) and Robin Carbonel of Pinoy Plus Association reminded the audience that although the Philippines is considered “low prevalence” country, we should not become complacent but rather work together and be united as a community in supporting the ongoing efforts of prevention, treatment, and care in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

PANACeA Network Partner Visits HAIN

Representatives of Aga Khan University (AKU) in Pakistan, the over-all coordinator of the PAN Asian Collaboration for Evidence Based e-Health Adoption and Application (PANACEA) network project visited their partner organizations in the Philippines.

Dr. Hammad Durrani, Ms. Saira Nigar and Dr. Zahid Ali Fahim met project leaders to discuss their updates on activities, availability and utilization of resources. HAIN is one of the AKU partners in the Philippines for its two projects here: mainstreaming E-health among the visually challenged group and in primary health care setting.

The PANACeA is a network of researchers from Pan Asia Region (South Asia, East Asia and Southeast Asia) that undertakes researches and produces evidence-based useful applications of ICT (Information, Communication & Technology) for the improvement of health services and health status in the region.

In January 2007, Emie de Vera, HAIN Resource Center staff, participated in a workshop called “Regional eHealth Research Network Workshop” which was organized by the Angeles University Foundation (Philippines) in collaboration with AKU. The workshop aimed to provide opportunities for eHealth researchers from developing countries in Asia to collaborate in the development of a regional research network, organize ideas for conducting research, and share their experiences in eHealth.

The workshop was supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). Participants were from different universities, research Institutions and NGOs from Indonesia, India, Philippines, Mongolia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Thailand.

During the four-day workshop, six research proposals were developed on the topics of:
• Mainstreaming eHealth in the PHC setting
• Disability
• Disaster/Emergency Telemedicine
• eHealth promotion for Safe motherhood
• Remote Consultation to Rural Mothers

Last December, the different partner organizations met again in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for another workshop which aimed to provide opportunities for PANACeA researchers to present the progress in the needs-assessment phase and discuss the proposals.

HAIN Partners with the City Government of Antipolo

Last May 8 2008, HAIN met with Mayor Victor Sumulong of Antipolo City and members of its city council to discuss HAIN’s project proposal. HAIN expressed interest in building a partnership with Antipolo city to help strengthen their community based health program, particularly on reproductive health.

Part of the undertaking is to conduct a community needs assessment through surveys, focus-group discussions and key informant interviews among stakeholders in selected barangays of Antipolo. The project will also include capacity development of barangay health workers. HAIN also vowed to provide technical and information support to the city council as they gear for the passage of its local Reproductive Health Code.

This undertaking is part of one of HAIN’s current project entitled “Enhancing Reproductive Health Situation in the Philippines through Capacity Development and Advocacy” The project aims to help develop strong linkages with various community health networks to initiate national population and RH agenda to increase in access to Family Planning (FP) and RH services and slow down population growth. The project is supported by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

Welcome Sandra to HAIN!

Sandra Cortina, a masteral degree candidate of Public Health concentrating in Global Health and Marginalized Populations from the Simon Fraser University, Vancouver Canada is with HAIN for three months as part of her internship program. Sandra is here to complete her course requirement to undergo a practicum in a developing country where she can apply public health concepts and gain practical experience in the field. She is involved in HAIN’s projects on reproductive health and E-health. Sandra also joins some community visit activities of the Council for Health and Development.

Sandra shares her thoughts about her Manila experience...

"My internship at HAIN (pronounced ha-een to those non-Tagalogers!) has up to now been an amazing experience and I look forward to my practicum where I will be researching reproductive health and the needs of community health workers. Although I have only been with HAIN for one month and the project that I am assigned to is soon to start, I have –to a great extent-practiced how a true international Non Governmental Organization works. Whether it’s preparing the background literature for future projects, attending national dissemination forums, participating in advocacy campaigns, or just updating the HAIN blogsite, I am taking away a lot more than I had realized. For the most part, I have come to appreciate the diversity of work that NGOs do. Although each organization is unique to their own initiatives, they must still work in a coordinated manner with other diverse groups and stakeholders to accomplish their goals. In addition to the varied work that goes into HAIN, above all I have come to realize the importance of all the work that comes out of HAIN. My office mates are all dedicated individuals who are committed to improving existing health information. By collecting and providing health data, we can not only start health initiatives, but we can also use it to empower people to act in response to their own health challenges, imperative to the developing world."

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The 2nd International Conference on Reproductive Health Management in Bali, Indonesia

The 2nd International Conference on Reproductive Health Management (ICHRM) was held last May 6-8, 2008 at the Kartika Plaza Hotel, Bali, Indonesia. The conference gathered around 400 participants from government, academe, local government units, military, non-government organizations, research institutions, people’s organizations and other individuals, institutions and organizations. The participating countries came mostly from Southeast Asia, and other Asian countries while others came from as far as Sudan and Mauritius.

The 3-day conference dealt with Reproductive Health Management (RHM) as a way of maximizing the potentials of individuals, groups, and institutions working in the reproductive health sector in designing, implementing and sustaining specific initiatives aimed at addressing relevant community aspirations and needs while contributing to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The six functional areas include (1) Governance, policy, ethics and standards; (2) Organization and human resource development and management; (3) Knowledge management; (4) Service delivery and operations management; (5) Resource mobilization, partnership and alliance building; and (6) Social entrepreneurship and enterprise development, institutionalization, and sustainability. In addition, RHM includes with 10 elements of reproductive health as defined by the ICPD. The focus was on how best to manage specific reproductive health initiatives with special emphasis on family planning in the light of equally pressing concerns that affect the living conditions of people particularly in developing countries. Thus the conference adopted the theme "Convergence: working together for results and impact".

Participants shared their current expertise and experiences in managing the reproductive health program to achieve better results and impact. The conference gave special emphasis on discussing the management of family planning program and also highlighted critical issues of reproductive health programs, such as access, quality, leadership, community participation, and youth empowerment.

ICRHM provided an opportunity for participants to develop a common agenda and build a consensus on ways to best pursue it, shared learning across individuals and organizations, build skills, and renew commitments to continue their work. Moreover, ICHRM highlighted current and emergent practices in managing reproductive health in relation to other development concerns, identified gaps, gains, lessons, insights, challenges and opportunities in pursuing multiple priorities in the area of reproductive health and development; and reached a consensus on future actions to advance reproductive health management in accelerating the achievement of MDGs.

Sudan will be the next venue for the 3rd ICHRM in 2010.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Tensions rise as world faces food crisis

Food prices are soaring, a wealthier Asia is demanding better food and farmers can’t keep up. In short, the world faces a food crisis and in some places it is already boiling over.

Around the globe, people are protesting and governments are responding with often counterproductive controls on prices and exports—a new politics of scarcity in which ensuring food supplies is becoming a major challenge for the 21st century.

Plundered by severe weather in producing countries and by a boom in demand from fast-developing nations, the world’s wheat stocks are at 30-year lows. Grain prices have been on the rise for five years, ending decades of cheap food.

Widespread drought, a declining dollar, a shift of investment money into commodities and use of farm land to grow fuel have all contributed to the food woes. But population growth and the growing wealth of China and other emerging countries are likely to be more enduring factors.

World population is set to hit 9 billion by 2050, and most of the extra 2.5 billion people will live in the developing world. It is in these countries that the population is demanding dairy and meat, which require more land to produce.

“This is an additional setback for the world economy, at a time when we are already going through major turbulence. But the biggest drama is the impact of higher food prices on the poor,” Angel Gurria, head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) told Reuters.

In Gurria’s native Mexico, tens of thousands took to the streets last year over the cost of tortillas, a national staple whose price rocketed in tandem with the price of corn.

Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer, April 1, 2008

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

HAIN Takes Lead in Advocacy on Rational Drug Use and Medicine Pricing

The Philippines ranked second to Japan as having the highest medicine prices in Asia. Filipinos spent for medicines the equivalent of $1 billion a year, from 1997 to 2001, the highest in Asean, notwithstanding that half of the Philippines' 80 million population have no access to essential medicines. The cost of medicines here is 40 percent to 70 percent higher than in other Asean countries. For Filipinos who have access to medicines, their budget for total health-related expenses (not just medicines) is a measly P2, 000.00/person/year.(1)

With this alarming backdrop, the Health Action International (HAI), a global network working on issues related to access to medicine and their rational use in collaboration with the Health Action Information Network (HAIN) conducted an advocacy planning workshop last February 12-14, 2008 at the Fersal Place Hotel, Quezon City. The three-day event covered lecture presentations on medicine pricing, overview on the salient provisions of Cheaper Medicine Act of 2007, Government’s intervention and NGOs sharing of experiences and advocacy work. It was attended by 28 Metro Manila representatives and 3 regional participants from various organizations (non-government organizations, academe and people’s organization) that gathered for discussions and workshop sessions on current concerns, developments and advocacy on affordability, availability and safety of drugs in the Philippines

As a result, HAIN was appointed as the secretariat and proposed with the following activities for the year:

* Information dissemination and education to stakeholders and sectors regarding access to medicine as basic human rights
* Institutional strengthening or organizational capacity in conducting advocacy and campaigns
* Giving awards as part of incentives for model programs that will serve as inspiration for the generics campaign.
* Strengthening network and mobilization groups to lobby Cheaper Medicine Bill, Amendments on Generics Act and related issues
* Lobby for rational drug use at the LGU level, specifically functional therapeutic committees or its equivalent
* Special project: Compendum Generics List

(1) Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer, December 19, 2007

Friday, February 15, 2008

Price-Control-Board Debate May Delay Cheap Drugs Law

After almost a decade, a bill seeking to ensure access to affordable, quality medicines by majority of poor Filipinos is on the verge of finally becoming a law. But unless the matter devolves into one of political expediency, contentious issues between the House and Senate versions of the bill could delay its immediate passage.

Certified as an urgent piece of legislation by the Arroyo administration since 2001, the measure is set to be among Congress’s legislative priorities once sessions resume late this month. Late last year, both Houses passed two versions of the proposed law, and now a bicameral conference committee is supposed to reconcile these.

Both the bills’ principal authors, Senator Mar Roxas (Liberal Party) and Iloilo Representative Ferjenel Biron (Kampi), are optimistic that harmonizing the two drafts would be quick. Indeed, the two bills have a handful of similar provisions proposing to amend Republic Act 8293, or the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines, aside from other reconcilable stipulations.

Read full story from PCIJ...

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