President Rodrigo Duterte has signed into law the measure aimed at strengthening government policy on addressing the spread of HIV/AIDS in the country.
Former Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go said on Wednesday that Duterte signed the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act, a copy of which has yet to be released by Malacañang.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Duterte approved the measure on December 20 last year.
The new law, which updates the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998, establishes policies and programs to prevent the spread of HIV and deliver treatment, care and support services to Filipinos living with the virus.
“In addition, the measure requires the implementation of an education program for HIV and AIDS prevention, aimed at providing the public with relevant information to reduce risky behavior, lower vulnerabilities, and promote the rights of persons living with HIV,” Go said in a statement.
“Likewise, [the law] calls for a program that will provide free and accessible anti-retroviral treatment to all indigents living with HIV who are enrolled in the program.”
Malacañang earlier said the “alarming rise” in HIV/AIDS cases in the country underscored the need for a comprehensive and updated legal framework addressing HIV and AIDS.
Government data showed a total of 8,533 cases from January to September 2018 and that 32 Filipinos are diagnosed with HIV each day.
“We consider its enactment and signing timely and relevant on account of the report of the Department of Health disclosing that our country has the highest percentage relative to the the increase of new HIV cases in the Asia-Pacific region from 2010 to 2016,” Panelo said.
He then lauded lawmakers and various stakeholders “who immensely contributed to the passage of an updated legal framework addressing HIV and AIDS.”
“This piece of landmark legislation will significantly reduce the stigma of people living with HIV or AIDS,” Panelo said.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, principal author and co-sponsor of the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Law, described the signing of the law as an institutional victory that will make the healthcare services more responsive to the needs of the people.
“Many lives have been unnecessarily lost due to AIDS, including the lives of many young people. Today, we change the course of this rising epidemic and hopefully, help usher in an AIDS-free generation,” she said in a press statement.
She added that the law affirms a human rights-based, humane, and scientific approach in addressing HIV and AIDS.
“It will protect the rights of persons living with HIV, afford accessible treatment through updated health technologies, and educate more people for prevention and de-stigmatization,” she said.
The human immunodeficiency virus causes AIDS, or the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, which destroys the human body's natural ability to fight off all kinds of infections. The condition still does not have any known cure.
Antiretroviral treatment has been known to slow down the advance of HIV in cases detected early. —Virgil Lopez with Amita Legaspi/KBK/BM, GMA News