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Palace calls for unity to address Philippine HIV/AIDS issue


By Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Malacañang welcomed the passage of the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act and called for unity to address the issue during today’s celebration of the World AIDS Day.

The Palace made the move after the Philippines was reported as registering the highest growth rate for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) infections in the Asia-Pacific.

(Seated from left) Undersecretary of Health Dr. Gerardo Bayugo, Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Dr. Francisco Duque III, and World Heatlh Organization country medical officer Dr. Rajendra Yadav at a news conferrence on World AIDS Day and the dengue vaccination program held at the DOH headquarters in Manila, (Czar Dancel)

(Seated from left) Health Undersecretary Dr. Gerardo Bayugo, Health Secretary Dr. Francisco Duque III, and World Health Organization (Philippines) country medical officer Dr. Rajendra-Prasad Yadav at a news conference on World AIDS Day and the dengue vaccination program held at the Department of Health headquarters in Manila. (photo by Czar Dancel)

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the Palace is pleased that the country is now recognizing the need to halt the epidemic of the disease in the country, and is finally taking significant steps to avert the spread of the disease.

“The passage of the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act will serve to strengthen the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Act given that the UHC covers preventive health services,” said Roque, one of the principal authors of House Bill (HB) 6617..

The said House Bill, called the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act, was recently passed on third and final reading.

“The proposed law provides for policies and programs to prevent the spread of HIV and deliver treatment, care, and support services to Filipinos living with HIV in accordance with evidence-based strategies and approaches that follow the principles of human rights, gender equality, and meaningful participation of communities affected by the epidemic,” Roque said.

However, the Palace official said that despite the passing of the bill, there is still much to be done to fully address the spread of the disease in the country.

“We have much left to do. We have to strengthen the stigma reduction mechanisms of existing laws and guarantees that the country’s HIV and AIDS response is premised on the respect, recognition and promotion of human dignity,” Roque said.

“On a larger scale, government needs to address not just the health issues themselves but also the social determinants of health that contribute significantly to the persistence of these communicable diseases,” he added.

Roque also urged the public to help raise awareness of the disease and decrease, if not fully quell the level of stigma on those infected.

“As we commemorate World AIDS Day, we must work as one to increase the capacity of the country for early warning, risk reduction, and management of national and global health risks, including HIV/AIDS,” Roque said.

“We urge all Filipinos to help end the stigma of HIV/ AIDS and contribute to prevent the spread of the disease. Together, let us support the government in this endeavor,” he added.

The Department of Health (DOH) today said HIV/AIDS continue to pose a significant threat to Filipino families as many countries continue to face the health issue.

Citing data from the Joint United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), the DOH said there are a total of 36.7 million people living with HIV (PLHIV) globally last year.

“Thirty-three (33) years after the first case of HIV was detected in the Philippines, the country now has a total of 46,985 HIV positive cases reported from January 1984 to August 2017. The total number of PLHIV in the Philippines is estimated to reach 142,000 by 2022, and 313,000 by 2030,” the DOH said in a statement.

The DOH also said the Philippine HIV epidemic remains concentrated among key populations who engage in risky behaviors.

Data shows that from January to August 2017, 84 percent of newly reported cases were among males who have sex with males (MSM), and transgender women who have sex with males (TGW).

“The young population is not spared from risks and vulnerabilities to HIV as two in three estimated new infections are from 15- to 24-year-old MSM and TGW,” the DOH statement said.

Only recently, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) went under fire after releasing to the public the identity of a suspect arrested during a drug raid who happens to be HIV positive.

The said suspect was one of the 11 arrested as they were about to have a sex orgy in a Taguig Hotel while under the influence of illegal drugs.

“PDEA has expressed regret in the inadvertent mention during a recent press conference that one of the suspects, though his identity was withheld, is infected with HIV. We may have gone overboard by violating his right to privacy,” the agency said in a statement Wednesday.

The PDEA acknowledged that in their desire to warn the public against using illegal drugs during sexual acts, they didn’t consider the suspect’s privacy.

Republic Act 8504, or the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998, requires confidentiality on the identity and status of persons living with HIV.

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