Bets urged to step up efforts to curb rising HIV cases, end stigma

April 1, 2016

Melanie_HIV_BahayngAlumni

Advocates called on candidates to adopt a stronger and comprehensive program to address the alarming increase of HIV cases in the country.

In a theater-forum organized by the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) on March 31, PLCPD challenged candidates to intensify HIV awareness drives and ensure youth access to HIV testing, counselling and treatment.

The Philippines has now the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world, according to the World Health Organization. From one case per day in 2008, 22 new HIV cases were reported every day in 2015. In January 2016, 804 new HIV cases were documented. Around 28% of these cases are among young people aged 15-24.

“The current AIDS Law (Republic Act 8504) can no longer adequately address the increasing number of HIV cases in the Philippines. We need to amend the law to provide sufficient funding for HIV response and increase access of young people to HIV information and services,” Romeo C. Dongeto, PLCPD executive director, said.

Under RA 8504, young people aged 18 below are prohibited from accessing HIV testing and other services without written parental or guardian consent. This discourages them to get tested. Early detection and knowing one’s status help in getting treatment and preventing further spread of the virus.

“Easing access of minors to HIV testing is consistent with their right to make choices based on their evolving decision-making capacity and needs regarding their health and well-being. We hope candidates will prioritize this,” Dongeto said.

He also stressed that providing information will correct the myths and misconceptions about HIV that have caused stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV, especially among males having sex with males (MSMs). MSMs account for the most number of HIV cases in the country.

“We need to double our efforts to raise public awareness on HIV to end discrimination against affected and vulnerable populations,” he said.

In line with this, the theater group Tanghalang Pilipino performed a one-act play entitled “Melanie” during the PLCPD event at UP Diliman. “Melanie” tells the story of a transgender beautician who died from the complications of AIDS and how her death raised awareness about HIV among her friends.

PLCPD organized the activity with the support of UNICEF Philippines and in partnership with the Quezon City Government, the Department of Health, and the Philippine National AIDS Council.