Palace assures HIV testing voluntary-A A +A
Sunday, May 18, 2014
MALACANANG assured Sunday that testing for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) remains voluntary.
Presidential Communication Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. made the statement amid the Department of Health's (DOH) plan to conduct compulsory HIV testing in light of increasing infections with estimates now running to 14 each day.
Coloma said that Republic Act 8504 or the Philippine Aids Prevention and Control Act of 1998 provides for voluntary testing.
“Ayon po doon sa batas na ‘yon, hindi po pinahihintulutan ang compulsory HIV testing kaya hinahon lang. Wala naman po tayong iginigiit na hindi naaayon sa batas,” said Coloma.
HIV & Aids support groups -- Action for Health Initiatives, Network to Stop Aids Philippines, Filipinos Living with HIV, and the Library Foundation Share Collective -- have expressed their objection of mandatory HIV testing.
“Wala naman po silang binabanggit na ipapatupad na patakaran hinggil diyan. Kaya siguro nandoon pa talaga tayo sa aspeto na dapat ‘yan ay maging purely voluntary lamang,” said Coloma.
The law only encourages voluntary testing for individuals with a high risk of contracting HIV, such as 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).
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), meanwhile, 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, they 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 they encourage young people to go for HIV tests for them to protect themselves and their future.
A Catholic prelate, however, expressed support to the proposal.
"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.
Still, the DOH has said there are no definite plans yet as to how the mandatory testing will be implemented. (SDR/FP/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)