MANILA — The alarming rise in new HIV cases in recent months demands a more aggressive response and the government needs to take this public health concern to the forefront of national agenda, Akbayan Party-list Rep. Ibarra Gutierrez said over the weekend.
In the latest report of the Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC), November 2014 recorded an alarming 492 new HIV diagnosis, which was 28 percent higher than the total number of cases recorded in the same period in 2013. This also brought the total number of HIV cases compiled from January to November 2014 to 5,502.
He said that since 1984, “over 22,000 Filipinos living with an HIV diagnosis and with new infection in every one and a half hour in the year 2013 that number is rapidly growing.”
“Clearly, much remains to be done in putting an end to the rapid spread of the devastating disease and achieve an HIV/AIDS-free society. Stopping this worrying trend is a collective challenge that requires both the government and the people acting together towards the same goal,” Gutierrez said.
“We are hopeful that through the swift and immediate approval of House Bill 5178, also known as the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act, we can finally set in place a national multi-sectoral HIV and AIDS plan. The plan acts as a roadmap for the government in achieving an HIV and AIDS-free society by establishing preventive policies and programs in stopping the spread of the disease in accordance with evidence-based strategies and rights-based approaches,” he said.
While the proposed law may not be the silver bullet to ending this scourge, he said, it nonetheless provides a stronger and clearer policy framework for the government in tackling the issue.
“It will unify and solidify the various efforts of the government in containing the pandemic. Primarily, it ensures that adequate treatment, care and support are accessible to people living with HIV (PLHIV), and prevent more people whose lives have been upended by the disease. A multi-sectoral approach shall be adopted, drawing in the local communities, civil society organizations and PLHIV in responding to the epidemic,” the lawmaker said.
Gutierrez urged the Department of Health for a swift implementation of the Reproductive Health law, which was viewed as a necessary measure in providing proper education and information campaign in the prevention of reproductive health diseases such as HIV and AIDS.
“Hand-in-hand with HB 5178, the RH law will positively contribute in preventing new infections, especially to the younger 20-29 age group, which continue to account for more than half of the new HIV cases being recorded in recent months,” he said.