BIHC-DOH Director Maylene Beltran tackles Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria

In a scientific conference during the 14th National Institutes of Health (NIH) anniversary, Director Maylene M. Beltran of the Bureau of International Health Cooperation of the Department of Health (BIHC-DOH) and the Executive Secretary of the Philippine Country Coordinating Mechanisms (CCM) emphasized the importance of Global Fund (GF) initiative for AIDS, TB and Malaria (GFATM) to support the Kalusugan Pangkalahatan (KP) program of the Aquino administration.

“Where does GF fit into our national health goal Kalusugan Pangkalahatan? Among the health-related goals of the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) incorporated to KP is to improve maternal and child health and to halt the spread of communicable diseases like AIDS, TB and Malaria,” said Ms. Beltran.

In the 2010 United Nations programme report on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Ms. Beltran cited that the Philippines is one of only seven countries with 25% increase in HIV cases from 2001-2009 and an average of six (6) new HIV cases per day or one (1) in every four (4) hours is reported in the country. In 2011, 64% of registered HIV cases came from National Capital Region (54%).

The DOH National AIDS and STI Prevention and Control Program (NASPCP) covers the Most-at-Risk Populations (MARPS) which include the freelance sex workers (FSW), men having sex with men (MSM), male sex workers (MSW), and persons who inject drugs (PWID), with a total MARPS of 177,597.

She added that HIV transmission among persons who inject drugs (PWIDs) is rapidly increasing from just seven reported cases in the last 22 years (1984-2006) to 147 cases in 2010 alone.

Ms. Beltran stressed, “Nationwide, we need an estimated total investment of 18.4 billion pesos for 2011-2016. In a year, we need 1.6 billion just to be able to address the MARPS.”

Given these scenario, Ms. Beltran explained how GFATM would be a great help in addressing the country’s concerns on AIDS, TB and Malaria.

The Global Fund is a unique global public/private partnership dedicated to attracting and disbursing additional resources to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.  It is a financial mechanism to provide funds to critical interventions against the three diseases.

The Philippines is one of the 20 countries in East Asia and the Pacific availing of the global fund opportunity.

GFATM promotes partnership among stakeholders through the Country Coordinating Mechanisms (CCM). These country-level multi-stakeholder partnerships develop and submit grant proposals to the Global Fund based on priority needs at the national level. After grant approval, GF oversee progress during implementation.

CCM include representatives from both the public and private sectors, including governments, multilateral or bilateral agencies, non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, private businesses and people living with the diseases.

Ms. Beltran reported that in the Philippines, there are three principal recipients (PR) of the GF: The Pilipinas Shell Foundation – PR for Malaria grant; DOH – PR for HIV grant, and Philippine Business for Social Progress – PR for TB grant.

Liver care. (photo grabbed from

“People with chronic hepatitis B should make lifestyle choices that will help them live healthy,” said Dr. Eternity Labio, Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist during the General Assembly of the Yellow Warriors Society of the Philippines last 18 February 2012.

During her lecture, Dr. Labio emphasized the importance of having a healthy lifestyle among Hepatitis B patients to give their livers a break – a chance to heal, a chance to rebuild and a chance for new liver cells to grow.

Healthy lifestyle means avoiding bad habits that can directly affect the liver. This includes drinking alcohol, smoking and exposure to environmental pollutants such as fumes from paints and other aerosols.

The liver is the second largest organ of the body.  It plays a vital role in regulating life processes. It refines and detoxifies everything a person eats, breathes, and absorbs through the skin. It helps digest food and absorbs important nutrients, neutralizes and destroys poisonous substances and helps the body resist infections.

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. Whenever the liver is inflamed or damaged, its functions are directly affected. “Thus, Hepatitis B patients must double the effort to stay healthy by avoiding everything that damages the liver. There is no special diet for chronic hepatitis B, but good nutrition in the form of a balanced diet may help liver cells to regenerate. Proper nutrition is an essential part of treatment,” explained Dr. Labio.

Meanwhile, the Hepatitis Foundation International warns Hepatitis B patients to be watchful on protein and calories intake. Too much daily protein may cause hepatic encephalopathy. This will occur when the amount of dietary protein is greater than the liver’s ability to use the protein. Excess calories in the form of carbohydrates, on the other hand, can also add liver dysfunctions and can cause fat deposits in the liver.

“With proper nutrition or balanced diet, regular exercises, enough rest, regular consultation with experts as well as good attitude and prayers – the burden of the disease will be alleviated, giving patients hope that life must go on,” said Dr. Labio.

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To track health researches, the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (PCHRD-DOST) is developing the Philippine Health Research Registry (PHRR), a publicly accessible database for all health researches and clinical trials being conducted in the country.

The defining feature of the registry is that it is prospective, researchers themselves register and update their research information, hence research details will be known even before the start of actual research. This will enable researchers, funding agencies, policymakers and planners to track health researches. Thus, duplication of researches will be avoided and allocative efficiency for health research funding will be improved.

The registry also conforms to the World Health Organization (WHO) - mandated clinical trial data field requirements. This is a 20-minimum data fields accessible to all levels of users. This feature will ensure equal opportunity for everyone who wants to participate in clinical trials and help companies recruit the most number of patients in a shorter period of time.

Part of the data field requirements is the inclusion of universal identification and secondary identification numbers that will serve as identifier for every clinical trial registered and conducted in different countries. According to Dr. Manju Rani of the WHO, this feature is very important to account clinical trials from different countries as part of the ASEAN Harmonization for GCP (Good Clinical Practices) and the ASEAN Network for Clinical Trials.

To encourage registration to PHRR, the Philippine National Health Research System (PNHRS) core agencies composed of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Health (DOH), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and the University of the Philippines Manila (UP Manila) will come up with a policy making registration to PHRR a pre-requisite to the release of funding for health R&D projects funded by these agencies.

Get vaccinated now (photo grabbed from wikinoticia)

“Have you been vaccinated for Hepatitis B? Have you been infected with Hepatitis B before and now immuned to the disease?  If you are not sure with your answer, consult your doctor now and be checked for hepatitis B infection,” warns Dr. Jane Campos, Liver and Gastrointestinal Disease Specialist during the general assembly of the Yellow Warriors Society in Quezon City last 18 February 2012.

“Today, there are 16 million Hepatitis B carriers. You may be the next carrier if you will not protect yourself with Hepatitis B vaccination,” said Dr. Campos.

The Philippines is one of the highly endemic areas for Hepatitis B wherein 12% to 16% of the population is infected with the disease. The increasing number of infection is worsened by Hepatitis B carriers that are unaware that they may transfer the disease to family members.

“That is why it is important to visit your doctor and be checked for Hepatitis B. If you are not infected, consider yourself lucky and get hepatitis B vaccination now,” emphasized Dr. Campos.

“If you are aware that you are a Hepatitis B carrier, this is a significant step – to make necessary actions. These include protecting family members against future Hepatitis B infections by consulting with experts about disease screening and undergoing medications or treatments depending on doctor’s assessment to avoid complications such as liver cancer and cirrhosis,” explained Dr. Campos.

“Why put yourself at risk if the disease can be prevented? Remember, prevention is far better than treatment.” Dr. Campos also stressed that there is no complete cure for the disease. Although there are available medicines for treatment, it has no guarantee to cure the disease. Treatments only reduce the progression of the disease by slowing down the virus to prevent further Hepatitis B complications.

“Treatment for hepatitis B is a life-long and tedious experience. Aside from physiological discomfort in undergoing regular medications, the cost of healthcare is also a burden to patients,” added Dr. Campos.

Hepatitis B vaccine, however, will cost only around Php800-1200 pesos per shot. “So get vaccinated now and be protected against the disease.”


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Dr. Jaime C. Montoya,Executive Director of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (PCHRD-DOST) presented the government roadmap for the development of science-based herbal products for health and wellness during the roundtable discussion.

On February 15, 2012, Dr. Jaime C. Montoya, Executive Director of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (PCHRD-DOST) led the roundtable discussion entitled “Strengthening the Science-Based Herbal Industry in the Philippines: Issues, Challenges and Solutions” at the Traders Hotel in Manila, organized by the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST).

The discussion focused on the challenges involved in the development of science-based herbal products for health and wellness in the Philippines. Action plans to resolve issues were also highlighted in the presentations.

Dr. Montoya presented PCHRD’s drug discovery and development program which includes the utilization of natural substances from terrestrial and marine sources that can be developed up to the pre-clinical stage for common infectious diseases and lifestyle related disorders.

According to Dr. Montoya, the drug discovery process takes time and requires huge amount of research funding.

“Out of 10,000 compounds screened, only five compounds reach clinical testing and only one compound makes it as a drug. This process takes up an average duration of 12 to 15 years and costs $1.2 to $1.6 billion,” Dr. Montoya said.

Though this is the case, he pointed out that confidence in the use of natural products cannot be underestimated. “The analysis of drug origins from 1981-2002 showed that 28% of new chemical entities (NCE) launched in the market were natural products and 24% were synthetic or natural mimic compounds. The combined 52% of new chemical entities suggests that natural products are important sources of new drugs or lead compounds suitable for further modifications during drug development,” he explained.

Dr. Montoya proposed the following options to consider in improving the program: 1) development or outsourcing of expertise; 2) identification of other options for conducting other pre-clinical assays, 3)consideration of medium throughput versus high throughput screening; 4) establishment of centralized facilities; and 5) conduct of pre-clinical screening only.