THE Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) are among the major problems plaguing Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) including seamen today.

A recent report by the Department of Health said 178 cases have been recorded for the month of June this year – a 63 percent increase considered to be the highest for 2011. Only 109 cases were reported in the same month of last year.

Of the 178 cases, 22 were found to be from OFWs with 18 of them males and most of them seamen or sea-based personnel.

All of these 22 OFW cases were acquired through heterosexual intercourse with 10, bisexual contact with seven, and homosexual intimacy with five. Given the new cases reported, there are now 1,016 Filipino HIV victims and 18 full-blown AIDS cases in the first five months of 2011.

Because of this concern, HIV/AIDS has been listed among the priority topics to be tackled on in the 1st International Seafarers Family Convention and Exhibit on August 4-5 at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City.

Dr. Asif Altaf, AIDS advisor of the ITF Seafarers Trust in the United Kingdom, has been invited to speak on the subject during the two-day convention aimed at strengthening the ties among seafarers’ families and heralding the contribution of the maritime industry to the Philippine economy with the theme: “The Bonds of Families, the Success of the World.”

“Families have many ways of coping with the absence of their seafarer parents and kids,” chief organizer Marissa F. Oca said. “And through the years, many issues have cropped up in relation to this. But we should all be aware that not only the family, but also the government, ship owners, employers, NGOs, and many others have a stake in keeping the families of seafarers together.”

Other activities lined up in the convention include sessions on Empowering Women by Carla Limcaoco of Women in Maritime Philippines and Maritime Piracy (A Humanitarian Response Program) by Roy Paul also of ITF Seafarers Trust.

Also tapped as resource speakers in the convention are Sen. Pia Cayetano on “Youth and Freedom,” former Department of Transportation and Communication secretary Arturo Valdez on “Life is an Expedition” and Neuro-Psychiatric Section chief Dr. Romel T. Papa of the National Bureau of Investigation on “Coping Styles to Loneliness and Separation.”

Meanwhile, over 100 companies, associations, organizations, manning agencies, shipping lines, housing and real estate, banking and finance sector, health, car companies, appliances, and maritime schools will be exhibiting their services and products to the seafaring families in the convention. The exhibition is open to all non-convention participants and to the public.

Slated to exhibit their products and services include Associated Marine Officers & Seamen’s Union of the Philippines (AMOSUP), Core 8 Int’l Marketing Corp., Craft Struck, Enclavesmart Community Solutions Management Inc., Federal Land Inc., Geo Estate Dev’t Corp., Gig & the Amazing Sampaguita Foundation Inc., Green World, Haier, Infostrada Inc., Independent Financial & Risk Consultancy, Int’l Committee on Seafarers Welfare (ICSW), Int’l Seafarer Assistance Network, Int’l Transport Federation, and Maritime Academy of Asia & the Pacific (MAAP).

Sponsors of the event managed by Philippine Exhibits and Themeparks Corporation (PETCO) are Smart Link, AMOSUP, ICSW, ITF Seafarers Trust, Magsaysay Group of Companies, Medicard, Philippine Transmarine Carrier, MAAP, Real Bank, Union Bank, Haier, GMA 7, OSM Maritime Services, and Enclavesmart.

Registration fee for the two-day convention is pegged at only P2,000 per person, which includes two lunch buffet, four snacks (all food catered by Via Mare), certificate of participation, farewell concert, raffle draws, games, and conference kit.

Interested parties may contact the International Seafarers Family Convention (ISFC) secretariat at (02) 832 5422, (02) 832 5401, and (02) 832 9303, or email at isfcpetco@gmail.com.

Related stories:

Vis-Min seafarers urged to join convention

Seafarers to tackle HIV/AIDS by
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