Press Release
May 15, 2018

Photo Exhibit Launch of Candlelight Memorial
Senate of the Philippines
May 15, 2018

Magandang umaga po sa ating lahat. I'd like to thank the team from Action for Health Initiatives for spearheading this event.

The continuing struggle against HIV is real.

The reality of HIV and the subsequent increase in the number of HIV cases in the country are matters that should alarm us. In the past five years, the HIV epidemic has grown to an alarming state. In 2012, an average of nine new cases of HIV were diagnosed per day. Now, it's grown to 31. Also in the past five years, 41,368 people have tested positive for HIV. This represents 83% of the total number of cases in the country since government started collecting this data. The youth is particularly vulnerable, with a substantial proportion of those diagnosed coming from the 15 to 24 year old age group. Ito ay isang napakalubhang sitwasyon.

Which is why fighting the rising tide of HIV is everyone's concern. It will take the efforts of doctors, teachers, those in media and here in government to provide not only help to those who struggle which HIV, but education, awareness, and a healthcare system that promotes practices to prevent it.

To this end, Senate Bill 376, or the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act, provides a framework to better respond to this issue. It calls for the creation of a national multi-sectoral HIV and AIDS strategic plan which be regularly reviewed and updated by the Department of Health through a Philippine National AIDS Council. The bill also mandates that appropriate and up to date education about HIV and AIDS be given in schools, communities, workplaces and in the most vulnerable areas of our country. This is both as an aid to prevention and to also remove the stigma and discrimination against those who suffer from HIV.

Because aside from protecting the body, it is vital that those who struggle against HIV are not dehumanized, or deprived of the right to be productive members of society because of that struggle. As science works towards a cure for HIV, so should the rest of society work to cure the sigma surrounding it.

We honor and remember the stories of the people in this exhibit, as a reminder of the cost to human life that HIV exacts from us. We remember them -- friends, sisters, brothers, co-workers, fellow human beings. Because we believe that every person deserves the right to the best available healthcare, and in so doing, the right to flourish.

We light a candle of memory for them today, and every day.

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