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HONTIVEROS FILES BILL PROTECTING HEPA PATIENTS FROM DISCRIMINATION, WANTS TO MAKE TESTING VOLUNTARY AND CONFIDENTIAL

Two days after the observance of the World Hepatitis Day, Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday filed a bill to combat the discrimination against Hepatitis patients in the country and promote education on blood borne viral Hepatitis.

Senate Bill No. 1520 otherwise known as the "Bloodborne Viral Hepatitis Testing Act of 2017" seeks to penalize discriminatory acts against people who suffer from Hepatitis B and C, particularly the denial of employment or promotion based solely on testing positive for Hepatitis. The bill also penalizes other discriminatory acts such as exclusion from health, accident or life insurance based on testing positive for Hepatitis.

Hontiveros also wants to make testing for Hepatitis voluntary and confidential, and sets up counseling services for proper management of the condition. She said that similar to people who have HIV, those who tested positive for Hepatitis B and C should not be grounds for non-acceptance to employment, education, or other services.

The lawmaker said that the Department of Health (DOH) and other health sector organizations and partners should be mandated to create and implement education and awareness programs about the prevention of Hepatitis, with particular emphasis going to the promotion of vaccination and advocating voluntary testing in the general population.

Hontiveros said that there are an estimated 7.3 million Filipinos who are chronically suffering from Hepatitis B.

The Senator said that there have been reports of discrimination of people suffering from Hepatitis B and C. She said that some are reportedly being denied work despite the disease's low risk of transmission.

"It is time to work towards ending the stigma surrounding Hepatitis. All individuals deserve the right to proper health care and opportunities to create a better quality of life. Hepatitis B and C are diseases with low risk of transmission, and medical technology and knowledge exists for its prevention. We should continue these steps forward to strengthen the public health practice of the country," Hontiveros said.

Hontiveros serves as the Vice-Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health and is the current Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Women, Gender Equality, and Family Relations.

Source: Senate of the Philippines

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