As Love Gala sets sail on its second year to discover and honor five Ripple awardees on November 30, 2018, we look back on one of the recipients of the award who made quite a splash in the field of HIV awareness and treatment – Dr. Kate Leyritana.
Training as an infectious disease fellow in Philippine General Hospital (PGH) led Dr. Kate to discover the struggles of people in getting tested and receiving care once diagnosed with HIV.
These barriers included staying anonymous, taking an entire day off from work to get HIV care, and a segmented healthcare system.
Anchored on the need to provide excellent and dignified care for people living with HIV who hail from some of the most marginalized groups, Dr. Kate, along with members of the LGBT community grieving from the loss of their friends to AIDS, put up a clinic that would feel more like a second home.
This advocacy breathed life into the Sustained Health Initiatives of the Philippines (SHIP) Inc., which aims to provide high-quality and affordable HIV and primary care directly to the communities that need it most.
As it sailed on, SHIP expanded its services with the formation of a nonprofit organization in 2013. The clinic currently operates as the testing and treatment hub for people diagnosed with HIV while the nonprofit is engaged in opening more clinics and equipping doctors on how to give proper HIV treatment to patients through their HIV Primary Care Skills up-building workshops.
The number of people living with HIV (PLHIV) enrolled to SHIP has now grown to 800 from the 30 patients Dr. Kate had in 2013.
Banking on the success of the Primary Care workshops, Dr. Kate and the SHIP team recently launched http (HIV Telehealth Training Program), which enables doctors from even the farthest HIV centers and Social Hygiene clinics to be up-to-date on HIV guidelines and the latest in best practices, under the guidance of HIV experts from training institutions.
This project leverages on the power of the internet and telecommunication technologies, giving doctors the opportunity to collaborate with and refer to other experts in the field of HIV which then decreases professional isolation and increases the quality of HIV healthcare in the country.
Dr. Kate and the SHIP team is also treading on previously uncharted waters in the Philippines HIV and Drug Use.
“In the current climate that we have where drug use is criminalized, drug users are pushed further into hiding, and access to healthcare can almost be negligible. PLHIV are already stigmatized, more so, PLHIV who use drugs. We at SHIP believe in healthcare for all, regardless of HIV status and drug use. We are training more HIV care providers on recognition of drug-related emergencies and addiction; and we're helping more treatment rehab providers on HIV and encouraging HIV testing in their institutions,” Dr. Kate said.
SHIP invests in specialized counseling for PLHIV with mental health issues and a history of substance abuse. Triple or quadruple stigma -- issues on sexuality, HIV, drug use, mental health -- is quite a burden to carry and the organization saw a need to address all of these to ensure the best outcomes for their patients.
These are what’s keeping SHIP on a steady sail apart from the constant research work on HIV care and treatment which was presented by their team in the last AIDS 2018 Conference in Amsterdam.
Hop On Board!
Even after making waves in the Ripple Awards last year with her efforts and passion in co-manning ‘the SHIP’, Dr. Kate remains steadfast in promoting her advocacies.
“Whatever happens, always remember why you are here in the first place. Make that thought keep you centered, wherever things take you,” she shared.
The Love Gala is getting ready to hand out this year’s batch of Ripple Awards in time for the World AIDS Day. If you or someone you know has done a significant act for HIV and AIDS advocacy, now’s the chance to recognize them. Click here and nominate someone today!