The 16-year old AIDS Law (Republic Act 8504 or the National AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998) which contains provisions that no longer respond to the current challenges of the concentrated HIV epidemic in the Philippines must be amended, said the legislators group Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD).
When the first civil society-initiated bill on comprehensive prevention, treatment, care and support was filed in Congress in September 2011, the accumulated HIV cases in the Philippines since 1984 were 7, 684. After only two years, the cumulative documented cases of HIV rose to 16,516 as shown in the December 2013 AIDS Registry. It took the country almost 10 years before it reached its ten thousandth mark – from 1990-2000; now it took only two years to achieve the same figure, 2011-2013.
“The Filipino people could not wait any longer for a responsive and comprehensive law. The urgency of the business at hand is palpable cause for the government to enact a comprehensive law that will respond to the rapidly evolving epidemic in the country,” said PLCPD executive director Rom Dongeto.
Aside from the rapid increase in figures, Dongeto said the epidemic profile has also dramatically changed over the years. The Philippine AIDS Registry shows that from 1984 to 1990, 60% of HIV infections were among females while seafarers were the most with HIV infections during the 1990s. In the January 2014 AIDS Registry, however, 97% of the 448 cases were among males, 85% of whom are Males having Sex with Males (MSMs) belonging to the 20-24 age group.
This prompted some PLCPD member-legislators to file amendments to the law seeking to provide comprehensive prevention, treatment care and support. More specifically, the amendments include the removal of barriers to minors 15 years old and above access to basic HIV prevention and treatment services. This amendment is consistent with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which recognizes the evolving capacities of children.
PLCPD members who have filed similar amendments to the AIDS Law are Representatives Lani Mercado-Revilla, Rodel Batocabe, Teddy Baguilat, Kaka Bag-ao, Gus Tambunting and Senator Pia Cayetano.
Dongeto added that the government must be able to scale-up and sustain a comprehensive and responsive effort to address the fast and furious HIV incidence among populations most at-risk to HIV infections.
While pursuing advocacy for the bill’s approval in Congress, PLCPD has also been organizing community-based activities with the involvement of key affected populations to raise awareness on HIV and AIDS. These activities include a series of theater-forum issue orientations held in Quezon City, Manila and Caloocan in partnership with Tanghalang Pilipino and a series of competency building workshop on HIV and AIDS among young key affected populations from high burden areas namely Quezon City, Cebu City, Davao City and Pasay City. These activities are supported by UNICEF under the project titled “Improving Awareness and Action among Young Key Affected Populations.”