Outdated. In 2012, then Iloilo Congresswoman Janette Garin principally authored a bill seeking to amend the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998 on grounds that the law needed upgrading because the problem had dramatically escalated.
At the time Republic Act 8504 was signed into law, there was only one infection every four days. Two years later, it was one case every three days. In 2012, an HIV case would be reported every two hours.
Today, there are 25 HIV /AIDS infections reported every day and the need to put in place newer measures focusing on a stronger information drive and more effective delivery of service has become imperative.
According to Aurora Congresswoman Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, existing laws are insufficient to halt the progression of HIV/AIDS and keep it from becoming a full-blown epidemic. Even with the worrisome statistics, the country remains classified as low-prevalence for HIV since less than 1 percent of the total population is infected.
Taking off from the initiative of former legislator Garin, the Aurora solon has filed House Bill 2511, which seeks to repeal the AIDS Act (R.A. 8504) and introduce more responsive measures to address this pressing public health issue.
It was UNICEF’s pronouncement that the Philippines was among the seven countries worldwide where HIV/AIDS was fast becoming an epidemic that also spurred Rep. Angara-Castillo to propose a new law.
Statistics since the early 2000s further support UNICEF’s assessment. Between 2001 and 2009, new HIV cases jumped by more than 25 percent. In July 2015, 682 cases were registered, a 17 percent increase from the same period the previous year.
Between January and March of 2016, 736 new HIV cases were diagnosed, a 10 percent jump compared to the same period in 2015, pegged at 667 infections.
Of those recorded, 39 percent are from the National Capital Region, while nearby Calabarzon, an aggrupation of five provinces in the Southern Tagalog Region came in next with 13 percent. Regions 3 (Central Luzon) and 7 (Central Visayas) followed with 11 percent and 10 percent, respectively.
Dr. Malou Palmero, one of only six paediatric dermatologists in the country, told MIMS in an interview the number of persons with HIV is likely higher than those being reported. She is witness to patients who consult for some other skin condition yet manifest HIV symptoms but have not undergone screening.
She emphasized the need to get tested so the infection is managed and people can live normal lives once they are on retroviral drugs. Filipinos should take advantage of the Health department's programme providing for free medication to manage the virus, she said. However, she acknowledged that the stigma should also be erased to encourage more people to come in for testing so there can be early intervention.
HB 2511 will bolster support for HIV/AIDS information drive and give premium to a counselling and prevention programme. It also aims to provide more efficient delivery of service for the treatment, care, and support for Filipinos afflicted with the disease.
Further, it calls for the creation of a Philippine AIDS Council that will be attached to the Department of Health (DOH) as its anti-HIV/AIDS arm.
The council will be concerned with policy-making, planning, coordinating, and become the advisory body of the national HIV and AIDS programme.
According to Dr Genesis Samonte, the Epidemiology Program Manager of DOH, the epidemic is here to stay for 10 to 15 more years, and it will only worsen as more people will become infected. The only way to stop the trend, he emphasized, is through effective prevention measures. MIMS
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