Zambo health office taps NGO to help prevent spread of STDs in evacuation center

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/22 October) – The City Health Office has tapped the assistance of a non-government organization (NGO) to help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) at the Joaquin Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex that has been turned into an evacuation center since September 9.

City Health Officer Dr. Rodelin Agbulos said the decision was made following reports on the  presence of commercial sex workers at the sports complex, the biggest evacuation center for  families displaced by the 20-day standoff between government forces and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) under founding chair Nur Misuari.

The standoff started last September 9 after the MNLF  laid siege on some coastal villages in the city, and was declared “over” by September 28.

Agbulos said his office and the Health Development Empowerment Service (HDES) have  strengthened their campaign against STDs and Human Immuno Virus-Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV-AIDS). HDES is an NGO working against the spread of HIV-AIDS and against child exploitation.

Agbulos said they are utilizing the assistance of “peer educators” who are volunteer-members of HDES in the advocacy campaign. He said these “peer educators” are former freelance sex workers. “They are the ones who go around and distribute condoms and they are the ones who go around checking on the possibility of sexually transmitted disease infection,” he said.

He said it is understandable that the sex workers will prefer to stay at the sports complex since there are thousands of persons staying there, some of whom are potential customers.

“Freelance sex workers are highly mobile. They don’t stay in one place. They go from one place to the other but with the curfew, they would rather stay in a place where there are plenty of people and that is the sports complex,” he said. The curfew remains in effect, from 12 midnight to 4 a.m.

Agbulos disclosed he also received reports that there is a strong competition among the freelance sex workers citing some of them have resorted to so-called “bagsak presyo” (bargain) scheme. (MindaNews)