Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday pushed for the implementation of a national multi-sectoral strategy to address the rising incidence of HIV and AIDS in the country amidst reports that there will be 133,000 people living with HIV in the Philippines by 2022.
In a press conference in Quezon City attended by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups and organized by the DANGAL National Network, Hontiveros said that from 6,015 total cases in 2010, HIV/AIDS incidence in the country rose to a total of 33,419 during just the first quarter of 2016.
“The situation we face is dire,” the senator said.
“The rapid increase in the last six years reflects an alarming landscape: the HIV is expanding in urban centers of the country, affecting disproportionately populations and communities that are marginalized and vulnerable: young Filipinos, gay and bisexual men, transgender people, and people who use drugs,” Hontiveros added.
As a response, Hontiveros, who is also the Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, filed Senate Bill No. 376 or the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Bill to introduce an evidence-based, human rights-informed, and gender-transformative HIV prevention and treatment plan.
Hontiveros said her bill will formulate a six-year National Multi-Sectoral HIV and AIDS Strategic Plan, which will incorporate a prevention program that will have a strong focus on education and accessibility of reproductive health services.
“80% of new infections come from men having sex with men. The median age of those diagnosed with HIV is below 35 years old” Hontiveros lamented. “At a time when stigma overrules government policies on this important health issue, we need to underscore that the foundation of curbing HIV must be based on the protection of human rights” she said.
The Senator maintained that new developments in prevention and treatment are available and must be maximized by the government. “Early diagnosis leads to early treatment and saves lives. Prevention, early detection and treatment must be made available by the government”, Hontiveros explained.
Hontiveros’ bill also seeks a comprehensive, inclusive and localized response towards HIV-AIDS. If passed, it will repeal Republic Act 8504 or the Philippine HIV AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998.