By Analou De Vera
The implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of a law that seeks to address the growing number of Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV-AIDS) cases in the country was signed Friday.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III led the signing of the IRR of Republic Act (RA) No. 11166 also known as the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act.
“We are confident that the new law will forge a stronger alliance among government, the private sector, civil society organizations, faith-based organizations, media, and all stakeholders in order for us to overcome HIV epidemic,” said Duque in a press conference at a hotel in Quezon City.
The new law was signed by President Duterte last December 2018. It repealed RA No. 8504 or the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998.
One of the key provisions of the law was that individuals, aged 15 to 17, are allowed to undergo HIV testing without the need of consent from their parent or guardian.
Meanwhile, those below 15 years old, who are pregnant or engaged in “high-risk behavior” will also be eligible for HIV testing and counseling with the assistance of a licensed social worker or health worker.
“The education component of the program was also strengthened by mandating learning institutions to focus not only on the right information on HIV and AIDS but also in human rights principles to reduce stigma and discrimination,” the health chief said.
“It likewise provides stiffer penalties for breaching confidentiality with regard to one’s HIV status and much higher liability for those who have access to this information,” he added.
Duque said that the proposed budget for the program is P1.2 billion. Currently, there are 125 HIV/AIDS treatment hubs nationwide, he added.
“The great thing about technology and the advances of science with regard to this is– if you are faithfully compliant with your medications, your life can approximate [be] back to normal. […] Gone are the days of 20 [or] 30 years ago when you get diagnosed as positive and you’re given death sentence,” the health chief said.
“But today, times have changed for the better, for our PLHIV (People living with HIV) patients because again improvements in ARTs (anti-retroviral treatment), improvements in drugs and medicines to manage opportunistic infections,” he added.
A total of 840 new cases of HIV were recorded in April 2019 alone. There have been 66,303 confirmed HIV cases reported since the first case of HIV infection in the country was reported in 1984.