IFUGAO Representative Teddy Baguilat called on the leadership of the House of Representatives to immediately calendar for discussion in the plenary the proposed HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and Aids (Acquires immunodeficiency disease) Policy Act.

The proposed act, which consolidates similar bills authored by Baguilat and other like-minded representatives such as Dinagat Islands Representative Kaka Bag-ao and Akbayan Partylist head Representative Tom Villarin, seeks to improve the government’s response to the rising incidence of HIV and Aids in the Philippines.

One of the key provisions of the proposed act is the expansion of the Philippine National Aids Council to include more representatives of the civil society organizations and even persons living with HIV.

There will also be a six-year national HIV and AIDS strategic plan mandating the implementation of strategies and the setting aside of an appropriate budget to implement the key provisions.

The proposed legislation likewise calls for an intensive information and education campaign to intensify the awareness of workplaces, schools and government agencies on how HIV and Aids can be contracted and also ways it can be managed.

“What is also important is that there will be a prohibition on discriminating against people living with HIV or Aids in schools and government offices. Companies will also not be allowed to prevent qualified people living with HIV and Aids from getting a job. Their status should not be made a reason for denying them their rights as well as appropriate services,” said Baguilat.

The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development said the Philippines has now the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world, according to the World Health Organization. From one case per day in 2008, 22 new HIV cases were reported every day in 2015. In January 2016, 804 new HIV cases were documented. Around 28 percent of these cases are among young people aged 15 to 24.

Baguilat said that with the appropriate legislation in place, then the trend should be arrested.

He said, however, that the House of Representatives has been adjourning its sessions early, thus limiting the time left to deliberate on key measures such as the HIV and Aids Policy Act.

“I hope the leadership will immediately calendar bills such as this to the plenary so we can immediately deliberate on them and then pass them. Literally, lives depend on it,” said Baguilat. (PR)