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Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said Friday that she will file a bill seeking to allow minors aged 15 to 17 to be given human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing and treatment even without parental consent.
In a press statement, Defensor said the bill will push for further amendments to the AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) Prevention and Control Act to give minors access to the treatment.
“The law requires minors to first obtain written parental consent before they can be tested for HIV. This limits the access of minors to potentially life-saving treatment and care, especially since many young people lack the finances to pay for health care,” she said.
She said minors who fall under any of the categories below will not be required parental consent for testing and treatment:
-already a parent or has suffered a miscarriage;
-has no contact with parents of guardians;
-has clinical condition that suggests infection with HIV;
-part of the key populations as determined by the Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC); or
-the knowledge of HIV status is in the best interest of the minor.
The senator also urged her colleagues to act on measures aimed at strengthening efforts at prevention, treatment, and awareness of the HIV and AIDS in the country following the Department of Health (DOH) report that there are 560 new HIV infections in April, which is 42 percent higher than the same period in 2014.
“The alarming increase in HIV infections requires immediate action from various institutions, including Congress, which must address the gaps in the existing HIV and AIDS law,” she said, noting that 30 percent of new cases were 15 to 24 years old.
Santiago, co-sponsor of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act, earlier filed Senate Bill No. 186 or the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy and Plan Act, and S.B. No. 2728 or the Stop AIDS in Prisons Act.
“The current HIV and AIDS legal framework conflicts with efforts of the health sector to stop the spread of HIV,” the senator said, adding that aside from treatment and awareness programs, mechanisms to reduce social stigma are also necessary.
She said the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Plan Bill seeks to amend R.A. No. 8504 or the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998 by harmonizing it with evidence-informed strategies and approaches on prevention, treatment, care, and support.
Meanwhile, the Stop AIDS in Prisons Act will create an HIV-AIDS awareness program in jails, provide comprehensive medical treatment to inmates living with HIV/AIDS, and protect prison guards and other personnel from infection.
Apart from proposed laws, Santiago has filed several resolutions urging the Senate to investigate the HIV-AIDS situation, including Senate Resolution No. 724 urging public hearings on the need for DOH to declare a national emergency amid the rise of HIV cases. - JJ, GMA News