Philippines U=U Campaign Workshop Focuses on Developing Critical Messages to Prevent Spread of HIV Among Key & Vulnerable Populations

Manila, Philippines, June 4, 2024 – The American International Health Alliance (AIHA) is proud to support a five-day workshop being conducted this week at the Heritage Hotel, Pasay City, Manila, by the Philippines Department of Health’s Health Promotion Bureau (DOH-HPB) and the Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC).

Some 65 healthcare professionals and representatives from seven key populations (KP) groups are attending this event to design culturally appropriate messages and visuals in advance of the launch of a new national U=U campaign targeting KPs and other groups vulnerable to HIV infection.

The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and AIHA are providing technical assistance to the DOH-HPB and PNAC as they jointly develop and implement a national U=U education and outreach strategy and corresponding campaign to drive social behavior change.

“I want to underscore that as we push for aggressive demand generation activities on U=U, HIV, and AIDS, we shall ensure that the services are available in the community through our program delivery,” Lorra Angelia Sayson-Garcia, Director IV of the DOH-HPB, told the group. “This is to ensure that we cover the end-to-end process for our clients and stakeholders, especially our KPs, vulnerable groups, and people living with HIV.”

Calling the event “a crucial step in our efforts to accelerate the HIV response in the Philippines,” Dr. Joselito Feliciano, Executive Director III of PNAC, said, “Through this workshop, we aim to empower KPs and vulnerable groups with the knowledge and tools they need to effectively communicate the U=U message and advocate for increased access to HIV treatment and care. As espoused by Dr. Teodoro Herbosa, the Secretary of Health and PNAC Chairperson, this initiative aligns with the 8-point Action Agenda for HIV and AIDS, which calls for the scale up of information dissemination, testing, treatment and viral load suppression.”

Members of KP groups participate in an activity designed to dig deeper into the lives of community members to create an imaginary representative persona and describe different scenarios surrounding their lives, including family and educational background, hobbies, employment, daily routines, etc., as a way to show entry points and discussion topics that will help reach vulnerable populations.

Primary objectives of this workshop include providing an overview of the current status of the HIV epidemic in the Philippines, target audiences for the country’s U=U campaign, crafting key messages and visual cues for the campaign, and determining culturally appropriate interventions.

Dr. Monique Carry, CDC Senior Health Communications and Demand Creation Advisor, explained, “This workshop is a gold-star example of how healthcare services should be delivered. We must first listen to our communities and provide communications and services that truly reflect their needs.”

Sharing the perspective of a young member of the KP community, Jaziel Sinadjan stated, “U=U is essential information [that brings] a message of hope and a powerful victory for young people with HIV that supports them in their personal battles and challenges.”

This workshop marks the beginning of a national U=U campaign that is being led by the DOH and local health authorities and supported by international organizations, including AIHA.

“This is a landmark activity for the Department of Health as we focus on communicating the U=U message, a banner for our nationwide HIV/AIDS Campaign,” said Jason Roque, DOH-HPB’s HIV and AIDS Focal for Health Promotion. “We thank all our partners, especially AIHA, for supporting this endeavor.”

This activity is being conducted through AIHA’s CDC-funded Targeted Programmatic Support Across Countries Project, which provides comprehensive, cost-effective technical support for the acceleration of evidence-based HIV prevention and treatment program implementation, as well as aligned health systems strengthening activities. Among other things, the project aims to increase capacity, particularly of civil society organizations, and to implement direct service delivery (DSD) activities, to address HIV/AIDS across PEPFAR countries globally.