A decade ago, a new case of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) was reported every three days in the Philippines. Today, new HIV case is diagnosed every one and half hours, according to the Philippine National AIDS Council.  

A total of 449 new cases of HIV were recorded in July alone this year, according to Department of Health (DOH). This is 62% higher compared to the same period last year (n=278 in 2012) and the highest number of cases reported in a month.

As spread of HIV decreased in many parts of the world, the Philippines is one of the seven countries struggling to combat the increase of HIV epidemic wherein most of the reported cases were predominantly caused by sexual contact among men-having-sex-with-men (MSM).

Men’s participation in unsafe sex and drug injections were primary responsible for the transmission of HIV. According to DOH serologic surveillance, MSM were identified as one of the sub-population with the highest risk of acquiring HIV. This was further supported by a study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases Journal, identifying young sexually active MSM as core transmitter of HIV epidemic in the country.

The alarming increase of HIV in MSM poses an imminent threat and may impede the efforts of the nation to combat the disease.

As response to the rapidly increasing cases of HIV, legislators passed the “The Revised Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy and Program Act of 2012. The revised law amends the previous law that overlooks the “protection of and promotion of human rights as cornerstones of an effective response to the HIV epidemic.”

According to Dr. Edsel Maurice Salvaña of University of the Philippines Manila, Section of Infectious Diseases, in his article The Philippine HIV/AIDS epidemic: A call to arms, prevention and awareness campaigns remain by far potentially the most effective means of controlling HIV/AIDS in the Philippines.

With the knowledge, awareness, and medication such as retroviral treatment being offered for free in many public hospitals, the country has the capacity to potentially arrest and reverse the epidemic,” Dr. Salvaña stressed.

 
please contact the DOST-JSPS Secretariat at telephone number 838-8376 or 837-2071 loc. 2001, or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) calls for nominees to attend the 6th HOPE Meeting on March 11 – 15, 2014 in Tokyo, Japan.

The JSPS Hope Meeting is initiated to provide opportunities to Ph.D. students and postdoctoral researchers from the Asia-Pacific region to engage in interdisciplinary discussions with Nobel Laureates and other distinguished scientists pioneering in the frontiers of knowledge.

Interested agencies are encourage to nominate two (2) or three (3) Ph.D. students or postdoctoral researchers in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology/Medicine and other related fields.

Requirements include the following:

  • Names of nominees with endorsement letter from the head of his agency
  • Nominees’ curriculum vitae
  • Certification from the university that the nominees are currently enrolled as a Ph.D. students
  • Copy of the nominees’ Transcript of Record

 

Requirements must be submitted not later than September 16, 2013. Potential applicants must posses valid Philippine passport and be ready to travel.

For more inquiries, please comtact the DOST-JSPS Secretariat at telephone number 838-8376 or 837-2071 loc. 2001, or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Further information about the HOPE Meeting can be found at http://www.jsps.go.jp/English/e-hope/index.html.

 

Student researchers from the University of the Philippines Manila (UPM) won the first prize in the first ever Philippine Undergraduate Research Awards on eHealth (PureHealth Awards) of the National Telehealth Center (NTHC) last July 3, 2013 at Intramuros, Manila.

UPM’s winning research entitled, “MobiQuick PH: Nutritional Assessment and Surveillance Tool for Children Aged 0-71 Months” aimed to use a web based application as an automated version of Operation Timbang, a surveillance system implemented by the National Nutrition Council (NCC) which monitors levels of malnutrition in zero to seven year old children in the country.

With MobiQuick PH, barangay health workers (BHWs) can input data in just two working days in an average of 3.7 hours per day. Whereas with paper documents, the consolidation of records usually lasts around three months for BHWs to accomplish an entire data set.

Other than its inherent swiftness, the web application is also capable of generating a Geographic Information System (GIS) based on the data it collects. This way, stakeholders can map the cases of malnutrion and pinpoint areas of high or least concern. As well, it detects and automatically deletes erroneous data, ensuring accuracy in the data being entered into the system.

Researchers reported that current feedback from users were very positive. On interviews, health workers voiced their approval of the program, describing that it is fast, user-friendly and easy to learn.

The aim of the web-based application is to ease the burden of work among health workers implementing Operation Timbang.

 
Balik Scientist Program by DOST

During the past two (2) decades, the brain drain has worsened in the Philippines. In an effort to counter this phenomenon and to capitalize on the Filipino emigrants’ expertise, the Balik Scientist Program (BSP), through the Presidential Decree 819, was established in October 1975.   It was revitalized in 2007, with the necessary policies and funding support.

The Balik Scientist Program (BSP) aims to promote information exchange and accelerate the flow of new technology into the country through strengthening the scientific and technological manpower of the academe and public and private institutions. The program’s objective is to encourage Filipino scientists and technologists to return and reside in the Philippines and share their expertise for the development of the country.

The transfer of the Balik-Scientist Program (BSP)  from the DOST Central Office to the three sectoral councils of DOST in May 2013 aims to strengthen, institutionalize and give more focus on each of the Council’s priority programs. The Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) focuses on evaluating BSP Applicants for the health R&D sector.  This move aims to strengthen  the implementation of the priority programs identified in the DOST-PCHRD’s National Unified Health Research Agenda (NUHRA) for the health R&D sector through the provision of expertise by the Balik Scientists.

For the past six (6) years (2007 to present), there were a total of approximately thirty-eight (38) BSP awardees in the health sector.{jcomments off}

 
Dumb cane, a common ornamental plant, was found to have active ingredients that may help in cancer treatment. Photo by Wikipedia.

A notorious ornamental plant, commonly known as dumb cane, has been found to be useful in controlling the spread of cancer cells in the body.

A study conducted by students from Notre Dame of Dadiangas University in General Santos City discovered that dumb cane plant, scientifically known as Dieffencachia maculata, contains active ingredients that cause antiangiogenesis, a process that inhibits the growth and development of new blood vessels in the body.

Antiangiogenesis controls the spread of tumour cells in the body by disabling the transport of nutrients toward the cancerous cells. Normally, tumour starts from a single cell and divides to make more cancer cells. The growth of malignant cells will depend on the availability of specific nutrients being transported by blood vessels.

In laboratory experiments, researchers separately analyzed the effects of dumb cane’s essential oil, leaf extracts, mineral water and Simvastatin (an anti-cholesterol drug with anti-angiogenic effects) to wild duck embryos. Results showed that embryos exposed to dumb cane’s essential oil and leaf extracts had lower blood vessel branching points than the embryos in the mineral water solution. The antiangiogenic properties of both dumb cane’s essential oil and leaf extracts were also comparable to Simvastatin.

Toxicity tests, meanwhile, revealed that dumb cane’s essential oil and leaf extracts are tolerable to humans. Using human lymphocytes, researchers determined the actual toxicity of dumb cane’s essential oil and leaf extracts on human cell. Though dumb cane contains glycoside, an organic poisonous compound, researchers explained that cell viability after 24 hours of incubation is still high.

With the findings, researchers claimed that dumb cane’s ability to prevent blood vessel growth and development can be possibly used in the formulation of anti-cancer drug to help prevent the spread of cancer cells in the human body. They recommended further studies to isolate the specific components of dumb cane responsible for antiangiogenic activity and determine the appropriate concentrations for pharmaceutical purposes.