Health

House approves mental health bill on final reading

MANILA – The House of Representatives on Monday, November 20, approved on 3rd and final reading a law that would establish a national mental health policy in the Philippines.
The vote was made as Congress resumed session after a 5-week break. 223 lawmakers voted in favor of the measure, while none voted against it or abstained.
"Akbayan welcomes the passage of the Mental Health Bill on 3rd and final reading. This brings us a step closer toward tackling mental health issues not just as individuals, but as a society, given that social conditions significantly contribute to a person’s mental health and well-being," said Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin, among the advocates of the bill.
The Senate had earlier passed its version of the measure in May 2017.
House Bill Number 6452 or the “Comprehensive Mental Health Act” also states that “every person” should have access to “the best available” mental health care.
The bill’s sponsors in the House include Quezon 4th District Representative Helen Tan, Antipolo City 1st District Representative Cristina Roa-Puno, Marikina City 2nd District Representative Romero Quimbo, and Davao City 1st District Representative Karlo Nograles.
Now that it has passed both houses of Congress, differences in the two versions, if any, will be reconciled by a conference committee. Both houses will then approve the consolidated version, which will be forwarded to the President, who can either sign the bill into law or veto it.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, sponsor of the bill's Senate version, said she would work with her colleagues from the House to make sure the measure is signed in law before the year ends.
"I laud the House of Representatives for passing on 3rd and final reading its version of the Mental Health Bill. After being one of the few countries left without a mental health policy, the [Philippines] is now one step closer in implementing a policy that will respond to the mental health needs of Filipinos. Once enacted into law, the measure will integrate mental health into the general healthcare system," Hontiveros said.
"The burden of mental health illness is real. But so is hope. With the eventual passage of the Mental Health Bill, help is finally on its way," she added – Rappler.com

Study the law, Sotto tells DOH chief on medical marijuana

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III on Wednesday advised Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to study the law over the latter's position on a proposal allowing the “compassionate use” of medical marijuana.
“He should review RA (Republic Act) 9165,” Sotto said, referring to the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
“Compassionate use if allowed. No need for a bill...Aralin muna nila yung [RA] 9165,” Sotto added, saying he will object to the position of Duque during the Health Secretary's confirmation hearing before the Commission on Appointments (CA).
Duque, appointed last week by President Rodrigo Duterte, said he is in favor of medical marijuana for “compassionate use.” Duque was referring to House Bill 180 or otherwise known as the proposed Philippine Medical Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act.
The proposal, approved at the House committee level last month, seeks to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes.
Senator Gringo Honasan, chairman of the CA health committee, echoed the position of Sotto, saying the compassionate use of marijuana is “already in the law.”
“Technically, it's already in the law that with a doctor's certification that it's for medical/compassionate use, it is allowed,” Honasan said in a text message.
RA 9165 states that the government should “achieve a balance in the national drug control program so that people with legitimate medical needs are not prevented from being treated with adequate amounts of appropriate medications, which include the use of dangerous drugs.”
Senator JV Ejercito, chairman of the Senate health committee, meanwhile, said he is “open” to the proposal legalizing marijuana for medical use.
“If it will help in saving lives, why not? As long as parameters are in place to prevent its abuse, I am open to the idea,” Ejercito said.
“Of course, any substance abuse is a concern. We need to put safeguards to prevent abuse,” he added.
A bill filed by Senator Risa Hontiveros seeking to provide a comprehensive public health approach to the country's drug-related policy is also proposing the use of marijuana upon the approval of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Under the proposal of Hontiveros, “the delivery, possession, transfer, transportation, or use of cannabis and other dangerous drugs intended for medical use or to treat or alleviate a patient’s medical condition or symptoms associated with his or her debilitating disease...shall be allowed upon application to and approval of the Food and Drug Administration.”
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, for his part, warned of users who could take advantage of a policy allowing medical marijuana.
“We currently have very weak enforcement against the illegal drug trade. Because of this inherent weakness, unscrupulous users will take advantage of this liberal policy on marijuana use to make money and sell it to the market,” Gatchalian said in a text message. — GMA News

Hep B Free – Bay Area program launched to eradicate hepatitis B

A spin-off of San Francisco Hep B Free program to unite the San Francisco Bay Area in the fight against hepatitis B and liver cancer by raising awareness of the single largest health disparity within the Asian American and Pacific Islander community was launched recently in San Mateo County,
Dubbed as Hep B Free – Bay Area, the program also seeks to create a unified voice to encourage screening and vaccination, and improve health outcomes throughout the Bay Area to make the San Francisco Bay Area free of hepatitis B.

HepB Poster FilipinoFamily FL hi page 001
San Francisco Hep B Free – Bay Area Program Coordinator Richard So announced that what they underscore is that the San Francisco’s Asian and Pacific Islander residents that comprise of 34 percent of the City’s population bear a disproportionate burden of liver cancer and undetected hepatitis B infection.
“In the United States, 1 in 12 Asian Americans is chronically infected with hepatitis B in comparison to 1 in 1000 non-Hispanic Whites. While Asian Americans constitute only 4% of the population in the United States, they comprise over half of the nation’s 1.2-2 million people chronically infected with hepatitis B. This is one of the greatest racial health disparities in the United States. Fortunately, hepatitis B is a vaccine-preventable disease. A safe and effective vaccine has been available since 1982,” shared So. “SF Hep B Free - Bay Area is a new re-branding of SF Hep B Free to unite all Bay Area efforts starting this month. San Mateo County is the first official expansion under this new banner and falls directly under SF Hep B Free leadership. We have a set of metrics we are determined to accomplish in year 1, but we are eagerly planning to surpass that.”

HepB Poster FilipinoFamily FL hi page 002

According to a page devoted on Hepa B by the Asian Liver Center at Stanford University, the first non-profit organization in the United States that addresses the disproportionately high rates of chronic hepatitis B infection and liver cancer in Asians and Asian Americans, “Hepatitis B is a vaccine preventable disease of the liver and leading cause of liver cancer worldwide caused by infection with the hepatitis B virus (HBV).”
Its initial HBV infection or acute infection symptoms could be so mild that many people including their doctors may not know they have been infected but could result in an illness with symptoms of fatigue, lost of appetite, dark urine and yellow discoloration of the eyes, lasting for several months and even death from liver failure.
It is estimated that 1 in 30 people worldwide or approximately 240 million individuals is living with chronic hepatitis B which causes 60-80% of liver cancer cases worldwide and without appropriate medical management, as many as 1 in 4 people chronically infected with HBV will die from liver cancer or liver failure, resulting in about 600,000 to a million deaths annually.
The campaign was launched in San Francisco in 2007 to promote collaboration between government, healthcare groups, community organizations and businesses to end viral hepatitis B disease and serves as a model nationally for (1) creating public and healthcare provider awareness about the importance of testing & vaccinating Asian and Pacific Islanders for hepatitis B; (2) promoting routine hepatitis B screenings and vaccinations within the primary care medical community; and (3) facilitating access to treatment for chronically infected individuals.

HepB Poster FilipinoFamily FL hi page 003
“For us, we wish we did not have to be here. Hepatitis B shouldn't be killing people anymore. A vaccine that can prevent liver cancer induced by hepatitis B has been there since 1982, screening is simple and free but must be requested from your health care provider but there is no cure. Treatment of chronic infection does exist in the form of a 1-a-day pill and is affordable with good insurance,” So added. “It is most commonly spread from mother to child at birth if the child does not get the hepatitis B vaccine soon after birth. It can also be spread from sex, and contaminated injection drug equipment, although this is less common.”
So believes that even with the advancement in research for screening of and vaccine for Hepa B, stigma still exists around hepatitis B for it is still seen in many countries outside the US as a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or injection drug disease and associated with promiscuity, unsafe sex and drug use despite the fact that the most common form of transmission is mother to child.
“This stigma that causes fear, shame and discrimination still exists in many cultural circles within the US today. Ignorance of the disease and its method of transmission causes people to fear "catching" hepatitis B by sharing toilets, utensils and living space with an infected person. Furthermore in many Asian Pacific Islander cultures, talking about disease and death is taboo so people remain unaware of the disease,” lamented So. “Education, awareness and engagement are keys for Asian communities including Filipinos. Breaking the silence and the stigma is enormously helpful. In previous efforts, shifting the focus from STDs and drugs to mother to child transmission (which is the biggest cause of infection) was very useful. Getting community members to visit their doctors and get tested is the best way to save lives.”

New app, website to make HIV clinics, treatment hubs more accessible

Filipinos in need of HIV/AIDS treatment or advice can now look up clinics and treatment hubs near them with the help of a new mobile app and website created to encourage treatment among its users while maintaining their privacy.
#SAFELYPH is a mobile navigation tool that can be used to learn how to contact and access HIV services on their phone without need for identification.
Users can look up their location on screen and see pins representing hygiene clinics, treatment hubs, and condom stops. A few taps will reveal more information about these locations, contact options for doctors, and how to get there using Google Maps.
The app was funded through the Global Fund HIV New Funding Model (NFM) project, which is designed to last from July 2015 to December 2017 to contribute to the vision of achieving zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths by 2020.
Save the Children, principal recipient of the Global Fund, developed #SAFELYPH in partnership with the Department of Health (DOH) to scale up prevention coverage among key affected populations (KAP).
These include male having sex with males, people who inject drugs, transgender persons, and pregnant mothers who may pass the disease on to their children.
Ned Olney, Save the Children country Director, said in a speech on Wednesday that they chose to create an app since social media is "currently the main source of information of the public" and is a key way of reaching tech-savvy KAP.
"We saw the need to develop innovative ways of reaching our key population through technology. We developed #SafelyPH together with the Department of Health and with the support of [HIV advocacy group] The Red Whistle, for HIV/AIDS information in the country to be readily accessible," Olney said.
"We hope that by making information readily available, we can reduce the stigma around HIV and encourage the general public—especially parents, teachers and community leaders—to be part of the conversation on HIV and AIDS so that we can, together, reduce the incidences in the country," he added.
Dr. Gerard Belimac, DOH's HIV STI, Viral Infections Program manager, said the DOH participated in this project to reach their goal of reducing new HIV infections among KAP by 2022.
The app also aligns with the 6th AIDS Medium Term Plan, which aims to "reach 90 percent of key populations at risk to HIV, test 90 percent people living with HIV (PLHIV), and treat 90 percent of PLHIV and retain them in the HIV care, and ensure that HIV treatment is successful."
Belimac encouraged those who have been tested to return to treatment hubs and start or continue anti-retroviral therapy, a treatment designed to suppress HIV and halt its progress.
"It is unfortunate that while anti-retroviral drugs are available, only about half of persons with established HIV diagnosis came forward and avail of these life-saving medications," he said.
"There is hope and certainly life after diagnosis, if ARV medications are started early," Belimac added.
According to the DOH 1,098 new HIV antibody sero-positive individuals were reported — 84 percent of which were asymptomatic at the time of reporting — to the HIV/AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP) from January to May 2017.
This marked a 48-percent increase in infections compared to the 741 cases recorded last year and the highest recorded cases ever since 1984.
Males composed 98 percent of all cases and the median age was 28. Thirty percent were youth belonging to the 15 to 24 age group while more than half belonged to the 25 to 34 age group.
National Capital Region recorded 404 (37 percent) of all cases, followed by Region 4A with 155 (14 percent) cases, Region 3 with 108 (10 percent) cases, Region 7 with 98 (9 percent) cases, Region 11 with 60 (5 percent) cases.
The rest of the country accounted for an additional 273 cases (25 percent).
Including old cases, there are 21,000 PLHIV on ART including 30 pediatric patients as of June 2017.
HIV attacks the immune system and opens the body to infections, infection-related cancers, and eventually AIDS.
The life-long disease is mostly acquired through unprotected sex, use of infected needles, or mother-to-child transmissions. HIV is not present in saliva or sweat.
ART can stop HIV virus from multiplying in the body but there is still no known cure for the disease. – GMA News

Hep B Free – Bay Area program launched to eradicate hepatitis B

A spin-off of San Francisco Hep B Free program to unite the San Francisco Bay Area in the fight against hepatitis B and liver cancer by raising awareness of the single largest health disparity within the Asian American and Pacific Islander community was launched recently in San Mateo County,
Dubbed as Hep B Free – Bay Area, the program also seeks to create a unified voice to encourage screening and vaccination, and improve health outcomes throughout the Bay Area to make the San Francisco Bay Area free of hepatitis B.
San Francisco Hep B Free – Bay Area Program Coordinator Richard So announced that what they underscore is that the San Francisco’s Asian and Pacific Islander residents that comprise of 34 percent of the City’s population bear a disproportionate burden of liver cancer and undetected hepatitis B infection.
“In the United States, 1 in 12 Asian Americans is chronically infected with hepatitis B in comparison to 1 in 1000 non-Hispanic Whites. While Asian Americans constitute only 4% of the population in the United States, they comprise over half of the nation’s 1.2-2 million people chronically infected with hepatitis B. This is one of the greatest racial health disparities in the United States. Fortunately, hepatitis B is a vaccine-preventable disease. A safe and effective vaccine has been available since 1982,” shared So. “SF Hep B Free - Bay Area is a new re-branding of SF Hep B Free to unite all Bay Area efforts starting this month. San Mateo County is the first official expansion under this new banner and falls directly under SF Hep B Free leadership. We have a set of metrics we are determined to accomplish in year 1, but we are eagerly planning to surpass that.”

30 Filipinos get HIV every day —DOH

An average of 30 Filipinos are infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) every day, mostly due to a lack of information about the virus that over time causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS.
According to a report on Balitanghali on Monday, the alarming rate has lead to 45,000 persons to be infected with HIV as of October.
HIV awareness campaign Pedal for HIV said myths about HIV, made prevalent by a lack of available information, is partly to blame for the ongoing stigma against persons living with HIV.
The same stigma has also lead many persons living with HIV to forego testing until their condition develops to AIDS.
"Dun sa mga tao naman nagdidiscriminate sa mga taong tulad namin, living with the virus at natatakot magpa-test, 'wag niyo na po sanang hintayin na maging apektado kayo directly ng virus," Pedal for HIV founder Faustine Angeles advised.
"Let's be responsible to get tested regularly," he added.
Pedal for HIV conducted a fun run, Zumba classes, and free HIV tests on Sunday as part of its advocacy of erasing stigma from HIV and AIDS.
"Hindi na dapat tayo magsi-walang kibo sa HIV. Kailangan ng all of government, all of society approach," Health Asec. Eric Tayag said.
DOH Public Health Surveillance chief Dr. Genesis Samonte earlier this year said that the Philippines had the fastest growing HIV epidemic in Asia despite having low numbers overall.
Young adults and teens aged 15 to 24 are the most vulnerable age group due to a lack of access to sex education and services.
"Sundown" clinics are promoted as options for youths in need of HIV tests, check-ups, counseling, HIV counseling, prophylactics, and recommendations to access treatment at hospitals and other health facilities.
Minors can obtain permission for HIV testing from their parents, Department of Social Welfare and Development social workers, teachers, and of-age peers. — GMA News

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