APCOM HERO Awards 2022’s honourees list

By November 15, 2022 December 2nd, 2022 Newsroom, Regional, What We Do

Community Organisation Honourees

HIV & AIDS Support House Inc (HASH)

(The Philippines)

1. Tell us about your organisation

HIV & AIDS Support House (HASH) is a non-profit organization based in the Philippines. HASH has been working closely with the key population for better HIV services access across the different regions and is heavily ran by volunteers who relentlessly give their time to advocacy.  HASH, founded in 2012, is a proponent of community-based HIV screening and other HIV services ensuring people are able to access much needed services across locations. HASH believes in the importance of close collaboration with other organizations and local government units for better implementation of programs and projects for the community.  We thrive in community networking, as we believe that as we work together, the response is much stronger. HASH promotes a spirit of family environment in its community engagement.

2. Tell us about your work

HASH has been at the forefront of Community-based HIV screening (CBS) since 2015.  While CBS is a program that deals with HIV testing, the task goes over and beyond testing. CBS makes sure that treatment linkages are in place and HIV prevention strategies are well executed, including weekly webinars and access to pre-exposure prophylaxis. CBS provides case management of clients beyond business hours until the wee hours of the morning, counseling and mental health management both of the community and the volunteers. HASH also provides training for CBS, case management, motivational interviewing, child rights and other relevant topics to keep the community informed, skilled and effective.

3. What one achievement your organisation accomplished that it is most proud of?

One achievement that HASH is proud of is the manner by which it is solidly grounded as an organization.  Having volunteers as backbones of the organization, we are fueled by the passion, commitment and hearts of our volunteers.  This is why the organization greatly engages the volunteers in upskill training, team building and mental health programs as we aim to help more volunteers become program people.  Managing volunteers is tasking and requires so much maturity from the leaders and it hasn’t always been a smooth ride with the volunteers.  But what is most important is the willingness and openness of the volunteers to adjust to the politics of the advocacy, follow processes and focus on the community as the center of its actions and, ultimately, work as one family.

4. What work did your organisation do differently due to Covid-19?

When COVID hit us hard, the community pushed to provide services across the different locations – keeping in mind the threat of the pandemic—to provide the needs of the community.  HASH takes pride in having a community of volunteers that will give back so much for the key population. During the pandemic and up until these days, HASH and its volunteers have been providing services non-stop.  HASH partnered with both government officials and private individuals to provide consistent services during the pandemic, not just for HIV services, but also provision of food and supplies for the LGBTQIA+ community in need. HASH will always take pride in knowing that at a time when COVID invaded the world and services were nowhere, its community of volunteers rose up to the challenge – from HIV test and treatment services all the way to provision of food and supplies.

5. How has your organisation catered to the mental health needs of your staff?

HASH strongly believes that mental health encompasses all other programs out there.  We have in the past years implemented several mental health support programs, such as:

  • mental health for counselors – a 2-day program for counselors’ well-being, like caring for the carers with focus on mental health
  • mental health webinar – a 2- hour webinar conducted monthly open for everyone who wants to register
  • an on-call mental health specialist to provide counseling and support for those in need of such services. The same specialist handles cases of alleged sexual exploitations and advances as well.
  • SOAR (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, Results), a 2-day program in which PLHIV share their journeys and talk about their lives in a closed-door setting. The specialist and a “den mother” manage the emotions in the room and make sure that affirmation is done constantly.  After the program, the batch forms a support group where they are able to bond further as brothers and sisters.  The tagline for SOAR is “Don’t just fly, SOAR”

6. You have been nominated for the Community Organisation HERO Awards category. What was your reaction?

The email went into the spam folder and It wasn’t until today (Nov 14) that I read the email.  It was a pleasant surprise.  The community of volunteers were celebrating in the chat room and incidentally, we had a community led monitoring (CLM) orientation webinar tonight.  The community could not contain its happiness as they were so happy with the news.   They could hardly focus on the presentation and when the open forum started, half of the time was spent talking about how they felt. This is one feat that the organization will always carry in its heart.  Having been nominated is more than enough an honor and pride that serves as a fruit for all the effort and selfless commitment that the community gave.  We also spent a few seconds of silence and offered this nomination to two volunteers who passed away during the Covid-19 pandemic.

7. Despite the fact that the COVID-19 is still with us, what hopeful message would you like to share with the communities in the Asia Pacific?

We talk so much about the new normal but how do we define normal?  The world is bound by perceived definitions of what is normal, what is right, what is black and white.  COVID19 has challenged us as one big community and if we can remain resilient, we can stand out. If we can be more humane, we can reach more. Let us not be tied down by these challenges, rather let us use these challenges as opportunities to serve more of our community siblings out there. We acknowledge the threat that COVID19 poses, but with this acknowledgement comes a statement that if we work together and hold hands as one big family, we are bigger than any virus. We can do anything. We will do everything.

8. Anything else you want to add? 

The nomination brings so much joy in the hearts of our kids (volunteers) and we thank APCOM for this humbling acknowledgment.

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