Pass new HIV law – lawmaker

QUEZON City, March 19—The “fast and furious” rise of HIV cases in the country calls for the urgent enactment of a law that will provide a comprehensive program for HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support—a lawmaker said.

Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat called on senators to amend RA 8504 of the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998, to effectively address the record-high number of new HIV infections in the Philippines.

Baguilat co-authored HB 5178 that the House approved on third reading in December 2014. The Senate has yet to pass its own version.

“We need a more aggressive response to this growing concern. We want zero new infections. A stronger law will enable us to achieve this goal,” he shared during a press conference on HIV organized by the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), March 19.

“We have to ensure that more funds will be appropriated for comprehensive services on HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. We also need to intensify our campaign to educate the public—especially key affected populations—about HIV and provide the necessary medical support for people living with HIV,” he added.

According to the National Epidemiology Center, there were 6,011 new HIV cases that were reported in 2014. 509 of these were recorded in December or 42% higher compared to the figure of the same period last year.

A total of 22,527 HIV cases have been documented since 1984, increasing dramatically in recent years. The most common mode of viral transmission was sexual contact followed by needle sharing when injecting drugs. Majority of those who acquired the virus through sexual contact were men having sex with men (MSM).

Bai Bagasao, UNAIDS country director, cited the lack of adequate knowledge on how the virus is acquired, and the low use of protection such as condoms as factors behind the rapid increase of HIV cases.

“It is important that we educate people on how HIV is transmitted and how it can be avoided. We must bust the many myths and misinformation on HIV. It is also important that we ensure availability and access to information about HIV and HIV-related products and services. Through these, we can help lower the chance of people getting infected and save lives,” she said.

Civil society organizations including PLCPD have also joined the calls to amend RA 8504, and have been actively involved in raising public awareness on HIV in the Philippines.