House approves bill to improve PH's HIV, AIDS policy

The House votes 188-0 in favor of the proposed measure

Bea Cupin

9:21:2am December 4, 2017

9:21:8am December 4, 2017

HUMAN RIGHTS, TOO. HIV awareness advocates light candles as they mark World Aids Day inside the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City on Thursday, December 1, 2016. File photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

HUMAN RIGHTS, TOO. HIV awareness advocates light candles as they mark World Aids Day inside the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City on Thursday, December 1, 2016. File photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Voting 188-0, the House of Representatives on Monday, December 4, passed on 3rd and final reading House Bill 6617 or the “Philippine HIV and AIDS policy act.”

The proposed measure wants to introduce the following reforms onto the existing “Philippine AIDS prevention and control act of 1998”:

The restructuring of the legal framework on HIV and AIDS by harmonizing it with evidence-informed strategies and approaches on prevention, testing, screening, treatment, care, and support, making the HIV response flexible and relevant to the characteristic of the HIV epidemic facing the country;

The clarification of the roles and responsibilities of state institutions involved in the HIV and AIDS response, from government agencies to local governments, thus ensuring the effectiveness and efficiency of the structure governing the response;

The establishment of the National Multi-Sectoral HIV and AIDS Strategic Plan, thus creating a road map on HIV and AIDS that has clear strategies, targets, operationalization framework, and funding; and

The strengthening of the information dissemination, education, and stigma reduction mechanisms of the law, which guarantees that the country’s HIV and AIDS response is premised on the respect, recognition, and promotion of human rights and dignity.

In a speech after the voting on the measure, Dinagat Representative Kaka Bag-ao, one of the champions of the bill, thanked civil society organizations who pushed for its passage. She also thanked Senator Risa Hontiveros, a former member of the House, for pushing for the rights of persons living with HIV. Hontiveros is the author of the bill’s counterpart measure in the Senate.

She dedicated the bill to persons living with HIV, both those who came out in the open and those who chose to remain anonymous. “I hope you feel that you too have a voice in Congress,” she added. (READ: HIV now an 'epidemic' among PH youth - Nat'l Youth Commission)

Bag-ao said that the new bill would put emphasis on the human rights of those living with HIV or AIDS. “It’s bothersome that not once is ‘human rights’ mentioned in the old law. In our version of the law, human rights is the anchor of our policy,” she said.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III recently called on the public to be more sensitive to the feelings of people living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), amid outrage over the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and some media outlets’ disclosure of a person’s HIV status during a drug raid.

The Philippines has the “fastest growing” HIV epidemic in the Asia Pacific region.

The health department has recorded 46,985 HIV positive cases from January 1984 to August 2017. The figure is estimated to hit 142,000 by 2022 and 313,000 by 2030, according to Duque. – Rappler.com