HONTIVEROS URGES GOV’T TO DECLARE ‘NATIONAL EMERGECY’ OVER HIV SPREAD, PUSHES FOR A NATIONAL, MULTISECTORAL STRATEGY TO CURB EPIDEMIC

Alarmed by the rising infection of HIV-AIDS in the country, Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday called on the government to declare a "national emergency" over the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the country.

Hontiveros, who is Vice-chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health, also called for an evidence-based, human rights-informed, and gender-transformative HIV prevention and treatment plan.

The Senator made the call after the UNAIDS points to the Philippines having the highest incidence of the infection in the Asia-Pacific region.

Hontiveros, who is also author of Senate Bill No. 376 or the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Bill, said that the government must immediately 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.

She said that the government should maximize new developments in prevention and treatment that are available. She explained that early diagnosis leads to early treatment and saves lives.

In May 2017 alone, 1,098 new cases of HIV-AIDS were reported, the highest recorded number of cases in the country since 1984 when infections were first recored. The new cases of infection are mostly from men having sex with men and transgender women.

Hontiveros said that stigma remains one of the major reasons for the spread of the virus. "Education on sexuality and safe sex is being neglected, and unfortunately, that takes a toll on the health of our young people. The majority of new cases is from the age bracket 15-24 years old," she said.

"The government must focus its time and resources on this urgent, life and death matter. We cannot afford to lose our young people to this epidemic. Equally, the government must ensure that people with HIV live with dignity and without fear of stigma and discrimination. This is a fight we cannot afford to lose," Hontiveros concluded.

Source: Senate of the Philippines

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