Padilla: Hope in battling HIV-Aids

AT THAT time when I have been ceaselessly egging several friends to get tested, President Rodrigo Duterte signs the HIV and Aids Policy Act or Republic Act (RA) 11166.

The law reconciles two other bills and expands access to free and accessible treatment and medication to all persons living with HIV and Aids and it’s beyond good news. The law creates the Philippine National Aids Council to implement a six-year plan to prevent and control the mushrooming number of HIV and Aids infections.

In 2018 alone, the country had a total of 8,533 cases of HIV infections and 1,520 Aids cases were recorded in the first nine months of the same year. That translates to 948 HIV and 169 Aids cases a month. It simply means a dreadful 32 cases a day. The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV-Aids has stated that “the Philippines has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the Asia-Pacific from 2010 to 2016.” By “epidemic” they mean that the rate of infection has increased to 140 percent for the past seven years.

The HIV Act will also mean better care as there will be bigger provisions for prevention and treatment. Schools will also become active players in raising the awareness about HIV and Aids. In Davao City, the youngest person with HIV acquired through sexual transmission is 15 years old - a child who presumably should still be in high school.

The law should help assuage the stigma associated with the disease. After all, HIV cannot be acquired unless one is sexually active and engages in unprotected sex. There are incidences that HIV is acquired through blood transfusion yet, sex is still the top mode of transmission. Condoms are the safest way one can be protected from HIV but the purchase and use of condoms have been consistently low with only two percent of the sexually active young adults using condoms.

Thus, there is a need to revisit how sex education modules have discussed condom use and how condom is viewed by young adults. Retail condom purchases can also pose a stigma since the RH law also prohibits the purchase of condom without parental consent. But since the HIV act allows the testing of minors without parental consent, change is obviously coming in the laws governing the purchase of condoms.

Six years may not be enough to make up for the arrears in HIV education and prevention but I would like to think that if Duterte has been able to clean up Boracay, then it could be enough time to drain the cesspool in HIV prevention and education.


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