On World AIDS Day, Duque urges public to break stigma on HIV
MANILA, Philippines – Health Secretary Francisco Duque III called on the public to be more sensitive to the feelings of people diagnosed with Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS).
The Department of Health (DOH) chief made the appeal during the commemoration of World AIDS Day on Friday, December 1.
During a press conference, Duque was asked to react on the criticisms hurled against the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and a news outlet for revealing the HIV status of one of 11 men nabbed in a drug raid in Taguig City. (READ: Pia Wurtzbach speaks out against revealing drug suspect's HIV status)
“I think PDEA has already apologized and that already speaks for itself clearly and loudly, that they do regret having revealed the identity of one of those caught during a raid ba yon in BGC,” said Duque.
He then reminded the public that the country’s privacy laws and the Republic Act Number 8504 or the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998 make it illegal to publicize a person’s HIV status.
“Kaya 'wag nating lalabagin itong mga batas na ito para hindi tayo mamroblema. At also, pagpapakita na rin ng ating suporta sa mga taong may mga HIV-AIDS,” said Duque.
(Let’s not violate these laws so we will not be having any problems. Also, let’s show support for people with HIV/AIDS.)
“Syempre, nagiging biktima din sila ng 'di kinakailangang stigmatization, okay? Syempre, we have to be sensitive also to their feelings. At alam naman natin na malalim na ang kanilang problem [kaya] ay 'wag na nating dagdagan pa ito sa paraan na malalagay sila sa kahihiyan,” he added.
(They are victims of stigmatization, which they don’t need. We have to be sensitive to their feelings. We know they already have a big problem to deal with, so let’s not add to this by shaming them.)
The Philippine has the “fastest growing” HIV epidemic in the Asia Pacific. According to Duque, a total of 46,985 HIV positive cases were recorded by the DOH from January 1984 to August 2017.
“The total number of PLHIV (people living with HIV) in the Philippines is estimated to reach 142,000 by 2022, and 313,000 by 2030,” he said.
From January to August 2017, 84% of newly reported cases were among males who have sex with males (MSMs), and transgender women (TGWs) who have sex with males.
Two out of 3 new infections are from 15 to 25 year old MSMs and TGWs. (READ: (READ: Orgies and Tinder: Millennials are having sex, some with a deadly price)
The health department currently gives free anti-retroviral therapy to people living with HIV. The treatment costs around P15,000 a year per patient. Duque encourages HIV positive Filipinos to avail of the free therapy at 51 DOH-designated treatment facilities nationwide.
As of August 2017, 22,413 HIV positive patients are enrolled at DOH’s anti-retroviral therapy.
“We will continuously mobilize support and foster partnerships with international bodies, other government agencies, non-government organizations, civil society, and the private sector to maximize whatever resources we have in hand,” said Duque. – Rappler.com