SABLAYAN–The Department of Health’s (DOH) office in the MIMAROPA region conducted an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign at the penitentiary here Wednesday and tested more than 300 male inmates for HIV, tuberculosis, malaria and substance abuse.
The two-day activity, dubbed the “Integrated Systematic Screening Among Vulnerable Population”, was held at the Pasugui sub-prison at the Sablayan Prison and Prison Farm (SPPF). It was targeted for the tests due to its high population.
During the event, SPPF Supt. Guillermo Ayala thanked DOH-MIMAROPA regional director Eduardo Janairo and the teams from the department’s central office and its partners, among them Pilipinas Shell Foundation Inc. (PSFI) and the nongovernmental organization, Love Yourself, for bringing the health service to the prisoners as a way of preparing them for their return to mainstream society as healthy individuals.
Ayala said he was glad that the three-hour drive from Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro did not deter the health workers from coming to the penal colony.
Janairo said they went there not only to focus on HIV but on tuberculosis, malaria and drug addiction as well.
“What we really want is for all or almost all of the illnesses to be treated,” he said, noting that the effort is in line with President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to Health Secretary Dr. Paulyn Ubial to provide health services to the country’s poorest of the poor.
Janairo said that the screening for the four illnesses would ensure that when the time comes for the inmates to leave the prison, they would be healthy and productive.
“That is why, it is important that while you are here, we could check your condition and give you the corresponding health intervention,” he said.
He also reminded them that while the government is trying to provide the health interventions the inmates need, it is also their responsibility to keep fit and healthy.
“Don’t ever think that your life here in prison has ended. Focus on the fact that there is hope outside prison. While you are here, take time to think about how you can protect yourself from contracting preventable illnesses,” he told the prisoners as he encouraged them to join the mass screening to identify their illnesses.
The screening started with lectures on how HIV, tuberculosis and malaria are acquired and who are vulnerable to them. Those who were willing to be tested for HIV-AIDS were made to fill up forms so they could undergo free testing and counseling.
Others queued up to be screened for tuberculosis, malaria and illegal drugs. Screening will be held until April 6.
Hygiene kits were also distributed to them by DOH MIMAROPA and PSFI senior program manager, Dr. Stella Flores.