Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Health Alert's last issue out now

The last issue of Health Alert is a reiteration of the importance of advocacy as a part of any NGO's work. But rather than focusing solely on the basics, the issue also highlights other facets of advocacy, which are often not discussed in full, such as community organizing. The issue also discusses the latest trends, taking into account the advances in the field of technology and how advocates can maximize these. The article, "Navigating the health information highway," discusses both the opportunities and challenges in making health information available. "HealthDev.net - a platform for Citizen Journalism and social networking on TB and HIV issues" introduces a web-based tool, which advocates can utilize to inform and educate the public on key health issues. There is also a sidebar on blogging, which is fast becoming another tool for advocacy. Three articles provide tips on key advocacy strategies. Two of these provide tips on writing and public speaking, while the other one discusses the importance of localizing a content, as well as how this can be done.

Since its launch in 2003, Health Alert Asia Pacific Edition has strived to promote health and development by providing practical information and critical analysis of the issues. We hope that it truly have been helpful in your advocacy, training, and research.

The newsletter’s success has been due to your contribution to the project – articles submitted, information shared, feedback letters – all of these are very much appreciated.

However, due to lack of project funding, HAIN temporarily ends the print production of Health Alert. Nevertheless, back issues of the magazine will still be offered for free to new readers via HAIN and our websites to ensure that Health Alert continues to generate value as a source of best practice and accurate information on health.

HAIN also plans to continue Health Alert in the Internet so that we can continue sharing health information.. In which case, we welcome any health-related articles that you would like to be published online. Feel free to email us at hain@hain.org for any inquiries, suggestions, and message.

We thank you for your support and we offer you our heartfelt gratitude and respect.

To request electronic copy of the newsletter, please write to hain@hain.org or hain1985@gmail.com

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Maximum Drug Retail Price: Deceitful and Illusory

Consumers still have to find out that the prices of medicines in the next few months will remain expensive despite the Maximum Drug Retail Price or Executive Order 821 signed by Mrs. Arroyo last July 27, 2009.

EO 821 is deceitful and illusory. EO 821 will not have a significant impact on bringing down the prices of medicines for the Filipino people.

EO 821 listed five medicines for compulsory compliance and 16 other essential medicines for voluntary compliance to treat hypertension, diabetes, cancer, bacterial infections and amoebiasis. EO 821 stands to benefit the users of these medicines; but it should include more essential medicines that are most widely used and are first-line medicines needed for the treatment and cure of more prevalent diseases in the country. Medicines that should have been included are those needed to treat the 10 leading causes of morbidity and mortality which include respiratory diseases, pneumonia and tuberculosis, among others.

In addition, EO 821 sets the compulsory maximum drug retail prices (MDRP) of five medicines. Price regulation of medicines is a step in the right direction. However, the MDRP under EO 821 is misleading. The mechanism used in determining the drugs for compulsory MDRP has been pegged on the drug originator price which though slashed to about 50 percent is still expensive. Take the example of Amlodipine which is used to lower blood pressure. Under EO 821, MDRP of Amlodipine 10mg is P38.50, about half the price of its originator brand medicine Norvasc 10 mg sold at P77 in a leading drug store. Why set an MDRP for this medicine at this amount when its generic equivalent is sold at P15 at a known drugstore selling generic medicines?

In related developments, private hospitals plan a hospital holiday in the light of the Aug. 15 deadline on implementing EO 821. At the end of the day, hospital holiday will affect patients. Hence, the government must exhaust all means to settle the problem and spare the people another burden.

In the interest of the Filipinos, the list of medicines to be placed under MDRP should include more essential medicines that are widely used. The MDRP should be pegged at prices that an ordinary worker can afford with his meager income. Government should promote and make available quality generic medicines as a viable alternative to expensive brand medicines.

The Filipinos have long awaited relief from the high prices of medicines in the country. Unfortunately, the law failed in its promise of more affordable prices for medicines. Mrs. Arroyo's lack of sincere measures to regulate the prices of essential medicines is in effect an expression of collusion with big pharmaceutical companies.#

This press statement was released August 13, 2009 during a press conference at Tree House Restaurant in Quezon City. The press conference was organized by Consumers' Action for Empowerment and Health Action Information Network (HAIN). For more details about the campaign, please contact:

Eleanor M. Nolasco, RN
Convener, Consumers' Action for Empowerment
Mobile: 0905-3255223

Friday, August 07, 2009

MSMs and transgender tackle HIV-AIDS issue

HIV infections are on the rise in the Philippines, with 85 new infections registered in May 2009 alone. This is the highest reported in a month, and brings the total for 2009 (January to May) to 322. Most of these cases (88%) were men, with the 20-24 year age group reporting the most cases (29%). Fifty-seven percent of the reported cases came from the National Capital Region (NCR). All cases reported sexual contact as the mode of HIV transmission, with homosexual contact (36%) as predominant.

The other populations at risk from HIV-AIDS include female sex workers and their male clients and injecting drug users. The vulnerable populations of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), out-of-school youth, and street children are also at high risk, and require comprehensive and targeted programmes as well. In 2007, an estimated 7,490 people were living with HIV, up from the estimated 6,000 in 2002.

All the main ingredients for an epidemic are present in the country. First, HIV transmission through unprotected sex accounts for 89% of reported cases. Second, condom use among the most at-risk populations remains below the universal access target of 90%.

Given this situation, the Government of the Philippines and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched a three-year programme entitled “Promoting Leadership and Mitigating the Negative Impacts of HIV and AIDS on Human Development.” Its first project is the 1st National Conference on HIV-AIDS by Men Who Have Sex with Men (MSM) and Transgender Filipinos, being held July 23-24 at Greenhills Elan Hotel.

This project will define the profile of MSM and transgender Filipinos as well as their changing behaviors. It will also map and assess existing programs, and recommend advocacy strategies and cost. It will further pilot-test these strategies to scale up the national MSM response, including involvement in shaping of policy.

Renaud Meyer, the Country Director of UNDP, said: “This programme demonstrates UNDP’s commitment to contribute to the global response to combat AIDS, which is embodied in Goal 6 of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – to reverse and halt the spread of HIV-AIDS and other diseases. Our overall goal is to support improved human development outcomes and contribute to the attainment of the goals of the Philippines’ national AIDS response through comprehensive leadership programmes. This project – which aims to develop the capacity of MSMs and transgender Filipinos as well as their organizations – is a significant step in this direction.”

The national conference fulfills two of the five components of the UNDP programme. These are to provide strategic information and community leadership among MSM and transgender Filipinos, as well as provide knowledge, community, and advocacy to promote a deeper understanding of HIV and AIDS. The three other components of the programme are:

*Leadership for effective and sustained responses to HIV and AIDS;
*Strengthening institutional capacities and partnerships on HIV and migration; and
*Mitigating the economic and psycho-social impacts of HIV and AIDS.

For this programme, the UNDP is working closely with relevant Government agencies such as the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), TLF Sexuality, Health and Rights Educators Collective, Inc. (TLF SHARE), Health Action Information Network (HAIN), and the Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC).

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