Gov. Joey Salceda keynote speaker during PCHRD 32nd Anniversary

‘There is science behind disaster preparedness,’ a fitting and timely message conveyed by  Albay Governor Jose “Joey” Salceda, the event’s keynote speaker, during the 32nd Anniversary celebration of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (PCHRD-DOST) last 14 March 2014 at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel, Makati City.

 

        PAMJE Board of Directors 2014-2017

The members of the Philippine Association of Medical Journal Editors (PAMJE), three years after inception, gathered together to report its accomplishments and the opportunities the organization can tap to improve health journal publishing.

Held last 14 March 2014 at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel, Makati City, Dr. Jose Florencio F. Lapeña, PAMJE President, presided the general assembly which was attended by 33 members.

 
Dr. Edsel Maurice T. Salvaña at PCHRD 32nd Anniversary

After patients with tuberculosis (TB) and sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) were found positive of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), researchers advised all TB and STD patients to undergo HIV screening.

HIV is the virus that weakens the immune system and makes an infected person becomes susceptible to various infections and complications. Emergence of complications such as TB indicates that HIV infection has already progressed to an acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), making TB an AIDS-defining illness. 

As of December 2013, the Philippines reported an average of 13 HIV cases per day, an increase of 2667% compared with the past decade. But Department of Health (DOH) estimated these cases were 6% to 12% of at-risk populations who underwent HIV testing such as men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM), female sex workers, and drug users. Other groups, including those with AIDS-defining illnesses and high probability of having HIV infection, were less likely to test because they did not perceive themselves being commonly infected of this virus, as explained by Dr. Edsel Maurice T. Salvaña of University of the Philippines - National Institutes of Health during the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) 32nd Anniversary.

Investigating HIV cases in less common groups, the research team led by Dr. Salvaña tested a minimum of 200 patients from TB, STDs, pregnant, cervical cancer group at the Philippine General Hospital, the country’s largest tertiary hospital. Initial results showed no HIV case among pregnants and cervical cancer patients while five confirmed cases in TB group and two confirmed cases among STD patients.

Based on Dr. Salvaña’s study, funded by the PCHRD, the initial prevalence of HIV among TB (2.5%) and STD (1.98%) groups was higher than 1%, the international threshold for universal screening. Thus, the recommendation for HIV screening was necessary.

The alarming prevalence of HIV in TB and STD populations underscores the hidden nature of the epidemic in the Philippines. In the midst of crisis situations, where the prevalence of TB and STD increases, awareness of the epidemiologic link to HIV can be life-saving,” added Dr.  Salvaña.

 
CLSU, USC, and CMU recognized as Tuklas Lunas Center at PCHRD 32nd Anniversary

Recognizing excellence and exceptional dedication in research, the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) named Central Luzon State University (CLSU), University of San Carlos (USC), and Central Mindanao University (CMU) as leading centers for drug discovery research, during the PCHRD 32nd Anniversary.

As Tuklas Lunas Development Centers (TLDCs), CLSU, USC, and CMU will be provided with equipment and research grants, necessary for conducting research and enhancing institution’s research capacity. 

TLDCs will also facilitate collaborative researches among universities and research institutions in their areas to complement each others’ expertise.

As of 2014, six TLDCs were already awarded by the PCHRD’s Natural Substance Research Program Selection Board based on their excellent research and development track record, competitive staff, and institutional capacity.

 Tuklas Lunas (formerly called as Natural Substance Research Program) is one of the initiatives under the drug discovery development program, which seeks to provide solutions on the countries’ pressing medical needs.

 
Dr. Ernesto Villalon at 1st eHealth summit 2014

“A world without leprosy” is the vision behind the creation of LEARNS or Leprosy Alert Response Network and Surveillance, the first mobile phone-based leprosy referral system.

Leprosy is a skin and nerve disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae. Its early signs include pale or reddish skin patches and diminished sensation. Before treatment became available, leprosy patient suffered gradual progressive nerve damage, and became crippled and blind.

Although leprosy is a curable disease, the Philippines still has 11 leprosy endemic areas. Leprosy remains hidden and untreated in these areas because of stigma, as reported by Dr. Ernesto S. Villalon of the National Leprosy Control Program during the 1st eHealth Summit.

As explained by Dr. Villalon, the LEARNS is valuable in identifying new leprosy case, particularly in areas where access to health care is restricted by poor communications and geographic isolation. By using the LEARNS-equipped mobile phone, health workers may refer suspected cases of leprosy by sending pictures of skin patch and other skin descriptions to leprosy expert or health care provider. Once the expert diagnosed it as leprosy, a medication plan will be given to patients.

Aside from diagnosis, LEARNS also helps in leprosy surveillance by generating reports and maps of hyperendemic areas. Today, LEARNS is being pilot-tested in Region 6.

This initiative of the Department of Health is in partnership with the Novartis Healthcare Philippines and Novartis Foundation for Sustainable Development.