FPOPs community center targets people at risk of hiv

RAISING Awareness for Junior Advocates on HIV (RAJAH) Community Center offers psychosocial support services thru an international support group for persons living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) / Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) guided by social workers, peer counselors, and a psychometrician. (Emme Rose Santiagudo)

By: Emme Rose Santiagudo

THE Family Planning Organization of the Philippines (FPOP) Iloilo Chapter aims to reach out to the population at risk of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) infection in Iloilo City through its one-stop-shop facility dubbed Raising Awareness for Junior Advocates on HIV (RAJAH) Community Center.

By providing a safe space for HIV testing and services in the city, Roberto Figuracion Jr., Rajah Clinic officer, said they hope to capture the key population – males and transgender women having sex with other males; youth including minors, and transactional sex workers – and provide key services for HIV.

“We want to target the key population who are males and transgender women having sex with males, pregnant women, and their partners and even the general public to have access to this one-stop-shop facility. We want to provide them with a place where they can go and to get tested,” Figuracion said.

Data from Department of Health (DOH)–6 reported 765 HIV cases in Iloilo City.

In Western Visayas, the health department also recorded 3,012 cases since 1984.



Instead of the clinical approach, Figuracion said they are now employing a more holistic method in HIV testing in Iloilo to end the stigma caused by HIV/AIDS.

“Damo ang indi malab-utan because they were too afraid to see a treatment facility. Here, we are providing key services for persons living with HIV that are comfortable and less stigmatizing,” he explained.

Figuracion added that the center is an alternative service point to give the clients more options to choose from.

“As an alternative service point, the center will serve as an option to what is already in place by the local government units (LGUs)” he said.

FPOP Iloilo Chapter Program Manager Mona Liza Diones said some clients might not be comfortable with the screening outside the communities.

“Kon indi ma-reach sa facility ang bata or indi sila katultol they might not be comfortable provided with screening outside sa communities,” she said.

The treatment and testing center was opened in December 2018, according to Diones.

FPOP then decided to formally launch its center on Monday after complying with the requirements of the different government agencies such as Department of Health and Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth).

Figuracion said the clinic was able to cater 1,700 clients last year and diagnosed 250 persons living with HIV since 2016.

Monthly, the clinic targets to cater around 130-140 clients, according to Figuracion.

The Rajah Community Center located at the 2nd floor Dulalia Building, Rizal Street, Brgy. Maria Clara, Iloilo City offers HIV testing which is free among other treatment services.

As a primary HIV care facility, RAJAH Center offers psychosocial support services through an internal support group for persons living with HIV, guided by social workers and a psychometrician.

Aside from treatment and consultation centers, RAJAH also boasts a fully functional community lounge and activity center.

It is open from Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and every weekends and holidays from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

“Rajah” which means a leader who is the epitome of power and protector during the pre-colonial era is a fitting name for the center, according to Figuracion.

Figuracion said FPOP has been a leader in ensuring the sexual and reproductive health of the city.

The organization is composed of diverse volunteers, community influencers, peer educators, and health care providers dedicated to serve the poor, marginalized, socially excluded and undeserved people in the community particularly in the health aspect through community education and service provision.

The center was supported by the international partners of FPOP namely, UNICEF, Save The Children, and Love Yourself.

“I am encouraging everyone nga gusto mag-volunteer and other organizations nga gusto pa mag-donate equipment, it will really help us,” Figuracion said.