BAGUIO City, March 20—A legislators’ group registered it support for the urgent passage of the bill seeking to amend Republic Act 8504 or the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998
The bill was approved on 3rd reading in the House of Representatives last December and is now undergoing deliberation by a technical working group headed by Sen. Pia Cayetano.
The bill aims to provide a comprehensive program for HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support in order to address the “fast and furious” rise of HIV cases in the country and provide for the needs of growing number of Filipinos living with HIV.
“We need a more aggressive response to this growing concern. We want zero new infections. A stronger law will enable us to achieve this goal,” Romeo Dongeto, Philippine Legislators’ Committee in Population and Development (PLCPD) executive director said in a media briefing, March 20, in Baguio City.
PLCPD, an organization of lawmakers that aim to uplift lives of Filipinos through human development legislation, has been advocating for the amendment of RA 8504. The shift in the country’s epidemic profile requires a stronger response, which RA 8504—once hailed as model legislation after its passage in 1998—no longer effectively addresses.
According to the National Epidemiology Center, there were 6,011 new HIV cases that were reported in 2014. 509 of these were recorded in December or 42% higher compared to the figure of the same period last year.
A total of 22,527 HIV cases have been documented since 1984, increasing dramatically in recent years. 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 (MSM).
MSMs, persons who inject drugs, female sex workers, and young people engaging in risky sexual behavior are among key populations at higher risk to contract HIV.
Meanwhile, UNAIDS country director Bai Bagasao stressed the need to invest in HIV response. “We have to ensure that more funds will be appropriated for comprehensive services on HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. We also need to intensify our campaign to educate the public—especially key affected populations—about HIV and provide the necessary medical support for people living with HIV,” she said.
Based on the AIDS Medium-Term Investment Plan 2011-2016, the country needs 3 billion pesos in 2015 for comprehensive prevention, treatment, care and support for about 80% of key affected populations alone. However, the entire government’s budget for HIV response for the year—around 383 million—is a far cry from the needed amount.