Department of Health (DOH) regional director Dr. Mario Baquilod (2nd from left) during the relaunching and signing of the agreement for the continuous operation of Amos Tara community center on August 14, 2019. (Photo courtesy of Bantay HIV Palawan FB page)

Amos Tara, a community center helping people living with HIV/AIDS, was relaunched in Puerto Princesa City.

The relaunch held August 14 marked the center’s introduction of its additional services free to the public.

Amos Tara executive director Calvin June Sintoy said these include making available the Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PREP) or the use of drugs to block the disease on people who are not yet exposed to the virus that causes it, assistance to PLHIV for enrollment to treatment, legal assistance for PHLIV and LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans(gender) and Intersex, and employment assistance.

He added the relaunch was also highlighted by the signing of a second memorandum of agreement among Project H4 (Project: Health, Help, Hope, Happiness), Department of Health (DOH) in MIMAROPA, and Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. (PSFI).

“We have also renovated some parts of the community center to show our new theme that is attractive to the youth of today,” Sintoy said.

Amos Tara is one of the 12 accredited clinics and centers all over the country receiving support from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, an international financing and partnership organization.

Sintoy said HIV cases in Puerto Princesa remain “alarming”. He noted an increase in the number of persons availing of free HIV screening.

“The number of those screened this year doubled compared to last year,” he said.

Sintoy said the increase in public awareness has been the result of their aggressive campaign for the Local HIV/AIDS Council, advocates, and partners to encourage the community to know their HIV status.

“Another factor also that contributes to the increasing number of HIV cases is that there are still people out there who engage into risky sexual behaviors. Most of them do not protect themselves by using condoms,” he said.

To date, he said 225 cases of HIV have been recorded in the city from 1984 to December 2018.

“In order to protect yourself from getting HIV you have to love yourself by practicing the TSC or timely testing and treatment, safe sex, correct and consistent use of condoms as a triangle of self care. Let us always remember, it’s not who you are but what you do that puts you at risk of having HIV,” he said.