The public and members of the media must always be sensitive to, and respect the privacy of, persons living with HIV/AIDS, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.

He made the call following the disclosure of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) that one of those they arrested during a buy-bust operation in a Bonifacio Global City hotel had HIV/AIDS.

He said the health status of one of the suspects had no bearing on the operation, which was centred on busting an illegal party drugs transaction.

Under the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998 (Republic Act 8504), confidentiality regarding the identity of people living with HIV/AIDS is mandated.

The PDEA faux pas caused an online uproar, with some news outlets also on the receiving end of criticisms. The drug agency immediately apologized, saying "PDEA has expressed regret in the inadvertent mention during a recent press conference that one of the suspects - though his identity was withheld - is infected with HIV. We may have gone overboard by violating his right to privacy."

On the part of the DOH, Secretary Duque underscored the importance of being sensitive to the plight of HIV patients. 

“We have to be sensitive. We know that they already have a problem, let’s not add to them - especially one that would result in embarrassment,” he said during a press conference at the DOH Central Office.

Secretary Duque also encouraged the public to follow the Philippine AIDS law, which states clearly the privacy of patients.

Following this law, he said, would also show support for the patients.

“It’s the same as showing support to these people afflicted with HIV/AIDS, they don’t need to be victimized by stigmatization,” according to the Health chief.

“Let’s not stigmatize people suffering from HIV/AIDS. We need to cooperate - to give [them] the privacy they deserve and the understanding,” he added.

Currently, the country recorded 46,985 HIV/AIDS cases since 1984. It is projected to increase to 142,000 by 2022 and 313,000 by 2030. MIMS