Experiences in AIDS Conference Vienna, Austria

Owie Franco

I was diagnosed with HIV in 2004, while I was working as a waiter in Saudi Arabia. I was placed in a hospital quarantine for about two weeks and eventually deported back to the Philippines. While back in the Philippines, I met other former migrant workers who were also deported from various countries due to their HIV status. Thru Pinoy Plus Association and ACHIEVE, I interacted with them and learned that some of them also experienced being put in isolation and detention. Just like me, they did not know what to do and whom to go for help.
Since then, I had been involved in various activities of ACHIEVE, including the conduct of HIV awareness in the quarterly pre-departure orientation seminar (PDOS) of foreign service personnel under the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) of the Department of Foreign Affairs. In April 2010, I received an invitation to speak in the International AIDS Conference in Vienna, Austria, upon the recommendation of ACHIEVE. The session was entitled, “Barriers to Migrants and Mobile Populations in Accessing Comprehensive HIV Services and Treatment”, and the topic I was asked to speak on was “Lack of Access to Healthcare Services for HIV-positive Migrants in Detention Center: neglect, discrimination and Death.” It would be my first time to speak in an international conference, in front of people from different countries and organizations.
The invitation provided me an opportunity to share my experiences. To make my presentation representative of other migrants’ experiences, I talked to other migrants who were also quarantined abroad when they were diagnosed with HIV. Most of them were detained in a small cell in government hospitals. Just like me, they also had no access to legal and welfare assistance.

ACHIEVE assisted me in crafting and delivering my speech. The experience helped boost my confidence and made me realize that sharing my experience about being an HIV+ migrant worker is important. I hope that through my small contribution, other organizations and institutions will develop programs that address the issue of migrant workers living with HIV, especially those diagnosed in destination countries.