A CATHOLIC prelate has supported the Department of Health's (DOH) proposal to Congress to pass a law on mandatory HIV testing amid the rising number of infections in the Philippines.
"Yes, I am in favor, on the condition that proper care in handling of patients and cases proper to the human dignity will be exercised by the government," said Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo in a text message.
However, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) said that the compulsory HIV tests are violative of a person's rights and heightens stigma and discrimination.
"Instead of a reactive measure like this, paramount is a more comprehensive and effective HIV awareness program," the group said in a statement.
At the same time, the group called on the churches and other organizations to intensify the campaign on HIV and Aids awareness.
"None is more essential than a united effort to promote an informed public, breaking myths and upholding the truth about HIV and Aids," the NCCP said.
The NCCP noted that it encourages young people to go for HIV tests for them to protect themselves and their future.
The Philippine Aids Prevention and Control Act of 1998 disallows compulsory HIV testing.
The law only encourages voluntary testing for individuals with a high risk of contracting HIV such female sex workers (FSWs), males having sex with males (MSMs) and injecting drug users (IDUs).
Also, compulsory HIV testing as a precondition to employment, admission to educational institutions, the exercise of freedom of abode, entry or continued stay in the country, or the right to travel, the provision of medical service or any other kind of service is deemed illegal.
"The mandatory testing approach is taboo to stakeholders and PNAC (Philippine National Aids Council) is not even consulted with the idea,” said Gerard Seno, executive vice president of the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP).
TUCP is a member of the PNAC, which oversees an integrated and comprehensive approach to HIV/Aids prevention and control program in the country. (FP/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)