A new law co-authored by La Union Second District Rep. Sandra Eriguel is expected to strengthen policy on Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome prevention, treatment, care and support in the Philippines.
“This law will help prevent the further spread of HIV-AIDS among Filipinos, especially among the vulnerable groups,” said Eriguel in a statement.
He was referring to Republic Act 11166 or the Philippine HIV and AIDS Act which was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte on Dec. 20, 2018.
Eriguel’s version (House Bill 1804) of the law was consolidated with other similar bills into a substitute bill which was approved by the House and eventually transmitted to the Senate.
She was also the Vice-Chairperson of the House Committee on Health which discussed those bills.
As vice chairperson and one of the principal authors of the substitute bill, Eriguel was designated as member of the House bicameral conference committee which conferred with the Senate counterpart on the provisions of the House and Senate versions of the measure which was eventually passed into law.
As a medical doctor, the prevention and control of HIV-AIDS is one of Eriguel’s primary advocacies.
The new law repealed RA No. 9504 or the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998 to strengthen and reconstitute the Philippine National AIDS Council with full budgetary support.
Congress passed the law amid the spread of HIV and AIDS in the country, becoming public health concerns that have wide-ranging social, political and economic repercussions.
Data from the Department of Health show that HIV and AIDS cases in the Philippines increased to 11,103 cases in 2017 from 9,264 cases in 2016.
Under the law, PNAC will promote and adopt a range of measures and interventions to prevent or control the spread of HIV among the general population, especially among the key populations and vulnerable communities.
Eriguel said the law would promote the rights, welfare and participation of people living with HIV and the affected children, young people, families and partners of PLHIV. It will also prohibit mass media from identifying persons with HIV or AIDS.
Eriguel said an important provision of the law makes health services for HIV-AIDS available to minors.
The provision allows persons with ages 15 to 17 years to undergo HIV testing even without the consent of a parent or guardian.
She said this would prevent the spread of the epidemic among young Filipinos and remove the stigma on people living with HIV or AIDS.
Eriguel said the law also contains provisions penalizing discrimination against people living with HIV or AIDS in employment, school enrolment, travel, housing, public office, credit and insurance, hospitals and health institutions and burial services.
It also prevents bullying against PLHIV.
Individuals who violate the law face imprisonment of one year to 10 years and/or fine of P50,000 to P500,000.
The law authorizes DoH to establish a program to provide free and accessible treatment and medication to all persons living with HIV and AIDS.
It also establishes an annual budget to implement the provisions of the law.