HIV-AIDS Policy Bill hurdles 2nd reading in Senate

MANILA - The Senate on Wednesday approved on second reading the bill that seeks to replace the 20-year-old law on the government's response to address the rising cases of HIV-AIDS in the country.

Senate Bill No. 1390 or the HIV-AIDS Policy Bill, was sponsored by Senator Risa Hontiveros and Committee on Health Chairperson Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito.

The proposed measure seeks to repeal Republic Act 8504 of 1998 and promises to address the rising incidence of HIV and AIDS in the country by creating a national multi-sectoral HIV and AIDS strategic plan which be regularly reviewed and updated by the Department of Health through a Philippine National AIDS Council.

The bill also seeks to allocate more funds on HIV prevention, diagnosis and treatment, as well as mandates an up-to-date education about HIV and AIDS in schools, communities, workplaces and vulnerable areas.

Hontiveros expressed optimism on the eventual enactment of the bill into law as she highlighted the need to update the two-decades-old law to address the current HIV situation in the country.

Citing records, she said that the Philippines has the highest HIV infection rate in Asia-Pacific.

According to the United Nations, the country has registered a 140 percent increase in HIV infection in the past six years.

Reports point to an average of 31 cases of HIV diagnosed per day, as compared to an average of nine cases per day in 2012.

The same reports said that 80 percent of the new cases come from the 15-30 years old age group.

The continuing struggle against HIV is real. This is our way of updating the government framework on HIV-AIDS. We need a scientific, medical, human rights-based and inclusive policy to fully address the problem, Hontiveros said.

The public can look forward to a new policy on the government's HIV-AIDS response. I thank my colleagues in the Senate for their support on this. It is urgent that we reverse the tide of the HIV-AIDS epidemic she added.

The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading their own version of the bill in December last year.

Meanwhile, the Senate version is expected to be taken up for third and final reading next week.

Once approved in the Senate, the two Chambers of Congress will then convene in a bicameral conference committee to harmonize the bill for ratification.

After being ratified by both Chambers, the final version will be transmitted to President Rodrigo R. Duterte for his signature into law. (Senate PR)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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