As one of the principal authors of House Bill 6617, or Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act, which was recently passed on third and final reading, I am pleased that the government recognizes the need to halt the epidemic of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) / acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) in the country, and is finally taking significant steps to avert the spread of the disease.
This is especially important given that the Philippines was recently reported as registering the highest growth rate for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections in the Asia-Pacific.
The passage of the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act will serve to strengthen the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Act given that the UHC covers preventive health services. The proposed law provides for policies and programs to prevent the spread of HIV and deliver treatment, care, and support services to Filipinos living with HIV in accordance with evidence-based strategies and approaches that follow the principles of human rights, gender equality, and meaningful participation of communities affected by the epidemic.
We have much left to do. We have to strengthen the stigma reduction mechanisms of existing laws and guarantees that the country’s HIV and AIDS response is premised on the respect, recognition, and promotion of human dignity. On a larger scale, government needs to address not just the health issues themselves but also the social determinants of health that contribute significantly to the persistence of these communicable diseases.
As we commemorate World AIDS Day, we must work as one to increase the capacity of the country for early warning, risk reduction, and management of national and global health risks, including HIV/AIDS.
We urge all Filipinos to help end the stigma of HIV/ AIDS and contribute to prevent the spread of the disease. Together, let us support the government in this endeavor.