By Blesilda Adlaon
MANILA, Philippines - In celebration of the World Hepatitis Day, the Yellow Warriors Society of the Philippines Inc. (YWSP) and other concerned groups recently gathered at the Diamond Hotel to sign the Yellow Manifesto, a commitment to fight hepatitis in the Philippines.
YWSP, the event’s main organizer, is a national group that focuses on, one, the prevention and eradication of hepatitis and, two, the protection of the rights of people who suffer from it. It is recognized by the Securities and Exchange Commission and is a voting member of the World Hepatitis Alliance, based in Geneva, Switzerland.
The Yellow Manifesto declares that the signatories “commit to take bold, concrete steps to lessen the burden of hepatitis among afflicted patients and their loved ones, to champion their inclusion and acceptance in society by upholding equal employment opportunities and ensuring provision of attainable access to health care toward a more productive society.” Its ultimate goal is to decrease the prevalence rate of hepatitis in the Philippines.
Besides YWSP, other organizations that have given their support to this undertaking are the Hepatology Society of the Philippines (HSP), the Department of Health, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), global health care leader MSD, the Employers Confederation of the Philippines, the People Management Association of the Philippines, and the office of Sen. Pia Cayetano.
Cayetano is one of the country’s most influential advocates for hepatitis awareness and prevention today. For her, this is a personal battle because her father, the late Senator Rene Cayetano, was himself a victim of liver cancer, one of hepatitis B’s dreaded complications.
So far, Cayetano’s efforts have resulted in the enactment of the Mandatory Infants and Children Immunization Act of 2011 (Republic Act 10152), which mandates that the hepa B vaccine be given to all infants within 24 hours from birth.
She also spearheaded the crafting of DOLE Advisory No. 5, which guides employers and workers in formulating workplace policies that will end discrimination against hepa B victims in the workplace.
Although Cayetano was not able to make it to the Yellow Manifesto event, her representative and health advocacy chief, Dr. Vivian Eustaquio, was present to sign the manifesto and give the closing remarks.
Another speaker at the event was Dr. Madalinee Eternity Labio, from the HSP. She presented some important but little-known facts about hepatitis, such as “hepatitis B, not alcoholism, is the biggest cause of liver cancer and cirrhosis in the Philippines,” and that while liver cancer is just the fourth most common cancer in the country, it is number 2 in terms of fatalities.
Labio also emphasized that “90 to 95 percent of hepatitis B infections in the Philippines are transmitted not through sexual contact but from mother to child, often during childbirth.” Early immunization, however, can protect the child from infection, thus the significance of RA 10152.
In support of the country’s fight against the disease, Mike Blanch from MSD announced that his company was cutting by 50 percent the cost of medicine for treating hepatitis C and delaying the progression of hepatitis B.
Other speakers at the event were YWSP president Christopher Malco, who gave the welcome remarks; DOH’s Dr. Jose Gerard Belimac, who described the current national program for hepatitis prevention and treatment; Dr. Marco Antonio Valeros, who presented the DOLE Advisory No. 5; and YWSP’s Pamela Chan, whose emotional narration of the actual dilemmas and frustrations of hepatitis victims gave a more real and more human face to this afflicted group in our society.
Source: The Philippine Star, August 18, 2011