Press Release
May 21, 2018

Senate oks bill seeking to strengthen HIV-AIDS policy for PH

The Senate today approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to reform the country's 20-year-old legal framework and approach towards the prevention and control of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) in the country.

Senate Bill No. 1390 was authored and sponsored by Senator Risa Hontiveros and Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality and the Senate Committee on Health and Demography respectively.

According to Hontiveros, the bill will update Republic Act 8504, or the "Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998," to incorporate lessons from the current HIV response, as well as "to introduce newer evidence-based, human rights-informed, and gender transformative strategies to prevent and treat the epidemic."

"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", she said.

Health officials said the number of HIV/ADIS cases in the country continues to rise with the Department of Health (DOH) recording a total of 11,103 cases in 2017. Based on records, the 11,103 new infections seen in 2017 is higher than the 9,264 cases reported in 2016, 7,831 in 2015, 6,011 in 2014, 4,814 in 2013 and 3,338 in 2012, DOH said.

Under SBN 1390, the government is mandated "to improve access to HIV services, especially for key populations and vulnerable communities, and ensure social and financial risk protection for those who need to access these services."

Towards such goals, the bill will pave the way for the allocation of more funds on HIV prevention, diagnosis and treatment, and require "up-to-date education about HIV and AIDS in schools, communities, workplaces and vulnerable areas."

The bill will also compel government to "enhance anti-discrimination protection to promote the human rights of Filipinos living with HIV, key populations and vulnerable communities, and providers of HIV services."

"At a time when stigma overrules government policies on this important health issue, we need to underscore that the foundation of curbing HIV must be based on the protection of human rights," Hontiveros said.

She added that the bill would require government "to guarantee the meaningful participation and involvement of civil society, communities, and key populations" in its official programs and policies towards HIV/AIDs prevention and treatment.

Hontiveros cited the need to update the two-decade old RA 8504, "given that new developments in prevention and treatment of HIV-AIDS were available and must be maximized by the government."

While the global trend in HIV epidemic is declining, she said, the Philippines is one of the only nine countries in the world that registered more than 25 percent increase in HIV incidence.

"The rapid increase in the last six years reflects an alarming landscape: the epidemic is expanding in urban centers, affecting disproportionately populations and communities that are marginalized and vulnerable: young Filipinos; gay and bisexual men; transgender people; and people who use drugs," she said.

"The time to be alarmed is now. The time to act is now, for the attainment of our Sustainable Development Goals, for the Filipino youth, for the vulnerable and the marginalized, and for those young people who need not die," she concluded. (Jardine Chua)

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