THE Senate on Wednesday approved on second reading a proposed measure that would provide a stronger government response to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrom (AIDS) epidemic in the country.
Senate Bill No. 1390 or the proposed HIV-AIDS Policy Act seeks to repeal Republic Act No. 8504 or the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998 and address the rising incidence of HIV and AIDS by creating a national multi-sectoral strategy.
Senate committee on health chair Joseph Victor G. Ejercito and Senator Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel sponsored the bill, which was also identified as the Senate’s priority bills in its May session.
Its counterpart measure at the House of Representatives has been approved on third and final reading last December.
The bill would allocate more funds on HIV prevention, diagnosis and treatment. It also would mandate to provide an “up-to-date” education about HIV and AIDS in schools, communities, workplaces and other vulnerable areas.
Under the proposed measure, the Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC) would formulate a medium-term plan enumerating the country’s targets and strategies in addressing the epidemic.
A human rights provision was also included in the bill mandating the Department of Justice (DoJ) to develop redress mechanisms to protect the civil, political, economic and social rights of persons living with HIV.
The bill also accepted Senate President Aquilino L. Pimentel III’s proposed amendments providing stiffer penalties for the disclosure of HIV status. This was in response to news reports which revealed the HIV status of a suspect involved in the raid of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Bonifacio Global City last November.
“Our current response on the HIV-AIDS epidemic is borne out of the need to update an old law… This is our way of updating the government framework on HIV-AIDS. We need a scientific, medical, human rights-based and inclusive policy to fully address the problem,” Ms. Baraquel said in a statement.
The senator also noted that the Philippines has the highest HIV infection rate in the Asia-Pacific region, citing data from the United Nations that the country recorded a 140% increase in HIV infection in the past six years. — Camille A. Aguinaldo