MANILA, APRIL 30, 2007 (STAR) By Paolo Romero - President Arroyo recently led a successful fund-raising activity by a private medical foundation that educates the public about various skin diseases and treats indigent leprosy patients for free with the assistance of the Department of Health (DOH).

The fundraiser ball called "A Dance for the Stigmatized" was held at the Manila Polo Club earlier this month by the Skin Research Foundation of the Philippines (SRFP). It was attended by Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales and hosted by television host and writer RJ Ledesma.

In her speech, which was read by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Mrs. Arroyo cited the work of the SRFP, which complements the government’s efforts to escalate the delivery of basic services to the poor, including "more free health insurance, better medical services in upgraded hospitals nationwide throughout the country, and more affordable medicines."

"Our growth has been made possible by the unity and teamwork of the Filipino people. We are making headway in our anti-poverty program," the President said. "We will push harder now and will sustain this solidarity as we relentlessly pursue our goals to free the nation from poverty."

"In the same manner, I have high hopes that the determined and united efforts of everyone here will enable the SRFP to succeed in its mission," she said.

In his message, Rosales said leprosy patients were ostracized, even condemned, for being "unclean" in Biblical times.

Funds raised through the event will be used to purchase new equipment and medicines for poor patients flocking to the Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center (JRMMC) in Manila, where the SRFP is based.

Founded in 2001, the SRFP has been treating indigent patients with various skin diseases – including psoriasis and leprosy – for free. The non-stock, non-profit foundation has also been conducting research and publishing studies on the incidence of skin afflictions in the country.

Dr. Luisa Venida, SRFP president, said many chronic skin diseases require prolonged and expensive medical treatment: "The DOH in coordination and with the support of international agencies like the World Health Organization has an effective anti-leprosy program. But like in other agency, funding is always too little for the task ahead."

Dr. Luisa Ticzon, a member of the SRFP, said that with the right equipment and trained personnel, leprosy can easily be detected and treated. Ticzon also founded the Lingkod ER Foundation that provides funds for the emergency treatment of indigent patients at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) and the University of Santo Tomas Hospital (USTH).

"It’s still the stigma and fear – even among medical practitioners – that is contributing to the misery of the patients," she said.

Leprosy or Hansen’s disease is a chronic, infectious disease that affects the skin and nerves. The earliest signs on the skin include patches of skin that are lighter in color than the surrounding skin, with diminished to loss of sensation. It is caused by the bacteria mycobacterium leprae.

Leprosy is a disease that remains underreported due to the general public’s lack of awareness of it.

Ticzon said leprosy can only be acquired during early childhood or from zero to five years. It is also poorly communicable, so there is practically no danger that medical practitioners will acquire the disease from their patients.

Once acquired, it takes between several years to decades before leprosy symptoms appear. Venida said this is why early detection is important. Poor or malnourished individuals, she said, are the most susceptible due to their low immunity to disease.

Palace: 5 million jobs created in last 6 years By Paolo Romero and Sheila Crisostomo The Philippine Star 04/30/2007

At least five million jobs have been generated in the country since 2001 following the growth of several industries, particularly business process outsourcing or BPO, Malacañang said yesterday.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said the new jobs were also spawned by growths in high technology and manufacturing, and that in less than a decade the country could become a world leader in the BPO industry.

The Arroyo administration began in 2001 following the ouster of President Joseph Estrada in a bloodless people’s uprising popularly known as EDSA Dos. He said the overall improvement in the economy under the Arroyo administration also explained the brighter employment prospect for Filipinos.

Bunye said an offshoot of the BPO growth was the more robust construction and realty sectors as the growing number of BPO establishments require the setting up of support facilities like training schools and food centers.

Meanwhile, some 30,000 employment opportunities in the country and abroad will be made available to jobseekers at a government-sponsored job fair on Labor Day tomorrow.

Labor Secretary Arturo Brion said the Pag-IBIG Fund will showcase affordable housing programs for workers as well as livelihood projects during the fair, which will be held at the Taft Ave. side of the Rizal Park from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

He said the job fair will also offer business counseling, mentoring, and training to workers who may opt to try entrepreneurship.

The labor department has invited 130 local employers and 20 overseas recruitment agencies to the fair.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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