March 12, 2015
Advocates encouraged voluntary HIV counseling and testing, especially among key populations at risk of contracting HIV, during the free mass HIV testing in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, as part of the National HIV Testing Week and International AIDS Candlelight Memorial this week.
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee in Population and Development (PLCPD) led the call amid the dramatic rise in the number of new HIV cases in the Philippines.
Romeo Dongeto, PLCPD executive director, expressed grave concern on the “fast and furious” increase in HIV cases in the Philippines.
A total of 667 new HIV cases have been reported in March 2015 alone, a 34% increase compared to the figure of the same period last year, according to the HIV/AIDS and ART Registry of the Philippines. 24,376 HIV cases have been documented since 1984. The most common mode of viral transmission was sexual contact followed by needle sharing when injecting drugs. Majority of those who acquired the virus through sexual contact were men having sex with men.
Prevention better than cure
Dongeto said that prevention is still the best way to stop the increase in HIV cases in the country.
“We need to intensify information dissemination campaigns to educate the public on how to avoid being infected. We also have to ensure that HIV testing and related services are made available and accessible,” he said.
More funds needed
A more aggressive HIV response would need more funding from government, Dongeto said.
According to the AIDS Medium-Term Investment Plan 2011-2016, the Philippines needs 4.8 to 6.6 billion pesos yearly to implement a comprehensive program for HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support. The budget allocated for the purpose in 2015, however, was only 383 million pesos.
PLCPD has been advocating for the amendment of Republic Act 8504 or the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act 1998 to provide funding for comprehensive and sustainable services for HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support.
The House of Representatives has approved on third reading in December 2014 House Bill 5178 that seeks the amendment. The bill is now undergoing deliberation by a technical working group headed by Senator Pia Cayetano.
In solidarity with the May 11-15 National HIV Testing Week in the Philippines being led by the Department of Health (DOH), PLCPD—with support from UNAIDS Philippines and in partnership with DOH, Philippine National AIDS Council, Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, Quezon City Health Department, Pasay City Health Office, the Office of Senator Pia Cayetano, and the House of Representatives—is organizing free voluntary HIV counseling and testing in the Senate on May 11 and in the House of Representative on May 12.