Considered the “backdoor of the Philippines,” Zamboanga City is taking the global problem on HIV/AIDS seriously.
In 1993, the Department of Health launched the National HIVE Sentinel Surveillance System. Zamboanga City was chosen as the sentinel site due to its location as it is the entry point of neighboring countries with high HIV incidence such as Malaysia and Brunei.
On March 1, 1999, Zamboanga City launched a program to ensure the city remains AIDS-free. The program stemmed from a partnership between the city government and the Human Development and Empowerment Services (HDES), a non-government organization to check HIV/AIDS.
Making Zamboanga City AIDS-free wasn’t easy. There are 701,717 people in the city that has a booming entertainment industry and attracts thousands of visitors from neighboring countries.
“We upgraded medical facilities, issued information materials in Chavacano and raised condom output,” said Mayor Celso L. Lobregat. “We achieved 100% condom use in entertainment establishments.” Constant monitoring effort has proven effective. Only seven cases of HIV were recorded in the city–four of them OFWs and three were transients. “Rescue teams” roam the city to enforce compliance on the use of condoms. A total of 10,045 people benefited from the program.
This program is recognized as a Trailblazing Program, a finalist for the 2005 Galing Pook Awards.