Santiago seeks to strengthen HIV/Aids law

SENATOR Miriam Defensor-Santiago is seeking for the passage of several measures aimed at strengthening efforts at prevention treatment, and awareness of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (Aids) in the country.

Citing a Department of Health (DOH) report, Santiago said 560 new HIV infections were reported in April 2015, which is 42 percent higher compared to same period in 2014.

"The alarming increase in HIV infections requires immediate action from various institutions, including Congress, which must address the gaps in the existing HIV and Aids laws," Santiago said, noting that 30 percent of new cases were aged 15 to 24.

Some of the measures the senator is pushing are Senate Bills (SB) 186 or the Philippine HIV and Aids Policy and Plan Act and 2728 or the Stop Aids in Prison Act.

SB 186 aims to amend Republic Act 8504 or the Philippine Aids Prevention and Control Act of 1998 by harmonizing it with informed strategies and approaches on prevention, treatment, care and support.

Meanwhile, SB 2728 will create an HIV-Aids awareness program in jails, provide comprehensive medical treatment to inmates living with HIV-Aids, and protect prison guards and other personnel from infection.

"The current HIV and Aids legal framework conflicts with efforts to stop the health sector the spread of HIV," Santiago said.

"Aside from treatment and awareness programs, mechanisms to reduce social stigma are also necessary," she added.

On Monday, Santiago said she will also be filing a bill, which will amend Aids Prevention and Control Act, by expanding HIV testing and treatment, including the youth.

The bill, the senator said, will allow minors aged 15 to 17 to give consent to HIV testing and treatment without parental consent, provided that the minor: is living independently, is pregnant, is already a parent or has suffered a miscarriage, has no contact with parents or guardians, has clinical condition that suggests infection with HIV, and is part of the key populations, as determined by the Philippine National Aids Council.

"The law requires minors to first obtain written parental consent before they can be tested for HIV. This limits the access of minors to potentially life-saving treatment and care, especially since many young people lack the finances to pay for health care," Santiago said.

Santiago also filed several resolutions, which seeks to investigate the HIV-Aids situation.

One of the resolutions she files is Senate Resolution 724, urging public hearings on the need for DOH to declare a national emergency amid the rise of HIV cases. (Sunnex)


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