A GROUP advocating for the rights of people living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (Aids) hopes that the newly-signed HIV and Aids law can bring about positive change for the country's campaign against the rising epidemic.
Fritzie Estoque, president of the Misamis Oriental Cagayan de Oro Aids Network (Mocan), said they are particularly happy with the certain provision in the law that allows minors to get tested for the HIV even without the consent of their parents or legal guardian.
She said the previous HIV law is obsolete and no longer applicable especially for minors now who are already engaging sexual intercourse as early as 15 years old.
Under the new law, minors aged 15 to under 18 could consent to voluntary HIV testing without the approval of their parents or guardians. Parents and guardians of minors below 15 who are pregnant or engaged in high-risk behavior would also not need to give their consent for HIV testing.
"This is a really big help, because we have been pushing this ever since. For the last 10 years, the age group affected with HIV is within this age bracket, they are getting younger and we need to address this," Estoque said.
In the past, minors could not avail of the free treatment because they can't tell their parents about their situation.
Estoque said in some cases, it's too late for the younger ones to get treatment.
"It's been a burden because we still need to get the parents' consent or get a social worker as previously required by law. Now because of fear, they don't get tested and end up dying instead, and no one should die of Aids because it can be treated," she added.
"We should accept that there are minors who are now engaging into sexual acts at a very young age so it is also just right to include them in the coverage of our services," she said.
With the new law, Estoque hopes that local government units become proactive and help the "positive community" get employment opportunities.
Estoque notes that it has been a problem among the persons living with HIV (PLHIV) to get a job because of discrimination.
Some PLHIV don't even have a 4-year degree and no skills to be ready for work.
"Ultimately, we all want to survive so we call on those in the authorities to help the positive community learn to make themselves self-sufficient," she added.
According to the Department of Health (DOH) in Northern Mindanao, a total of 1,253 HIV and Aids cases are registered at the national HIV registry from 1984 to October 2018.
Meanwhile in the national level, the Philippines has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the Asia-Pacific, with infections jumping by 140 percent from 2010 to 2016, the UNAids said.
The new law also imposes a jail term of six months to two years and/or a fine of not less than P50,000 on anyone who discloses the information that a person has AIDS, undergone an HIV-related test, has HIV or HIV-related illnesses or has been exposed to HIV, without their written consent.
Discrimination against PLHIV would also be punished with a jail term of six months to five years and/or a fine of P50,000 to P500,000, and may have their business permit, business license or accreditation or professional license suspended or revoked.