Aiza Seguerra: Lower age of consent for HIV/AIDS testing

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) - Celebrity and youth commissioner Aiza Seguerra on Monday spoke to employees of the National Youth Commission in Quezon City, on the importance of getting tested for HIV/AIDS.

On the same morning, employees of the NYC were also given the opportunity to get tested for free.

Seguerra says it is alarming that the Philippines is one of the few countries in the world where people still die of AIDS, and where the number of cases of infection is consistently on the rise.

Seguerra wants the age of consent for Filipinos to get tested alone and voluntarily lowered to at least 15 years old, from the current 18 years old.

Under the law, minors below the age of 18 are not allowed to get tested for HIV/AIDS without being accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.

"Alam natin kung gaano ka-hirap mag paalam sa mga magulang natin [We all know how hard it is to ask permission from our parents] for a night out 'di ba? Hirap na nun eh! [That's hard enough!] What more, telling your father or mother that you're having sex with your boyfriend, with your girlfriend, my God! Gaano na kahirap 'yon [It's already that hard]!" Seguerra explained.

"What more sabihin mo, 'Ma, Dad, I think I might have HIV!' Gets mo? 'Yung journey na 'yon na pagdaanan mo [That journey you have to go through]! And of course meron kang coming out issue d'yan for our kapatid natin na LGBT [Of course we have issues on coming out for our fellow LGBTs]," he added.

He further explains "marami sa mga kabataan natin [many of our young people] at 15 that's the average age of first sexual encounters" adding that if young teens can not get tested as early as necessary, then they are abandoned in the hands of fate, making them candiates for full blown AIDS and possibly death.

He says, "Imagine those issues that you have to go through just to have yourself tested and alam natin [we know] time is of the essence here.. you only have 10 years before it becomes full blown AIDS more or less ten years.  Ayaw natin umaabot doon! [We don't want to get to that point!] The earlier that the virus is detected mas malaki ang [the greater the] chances mo na ma-maintain mo lang na sa ganoon level at hindi na umangat pa 'yon [that you can maintain it at that level and it doesn't get worse]."

AIDS or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome is the final stage of HIV infection. People at this stage of the disease have badly damaged immune systems, putting them at risk for "opportunistic" infections. These infections are called "opportunistic" because they take advantage of weak immunity, and can cause devastating illnesses.

The goal of the HIV-infected person is to stop the virus from spreading--by undergoing ART or Antiretroviral (ARV) treatment. This improves the health and prolongs the life of a person with HIV.

"Ang sinasabi naman nila na parang dapat kailangan ng suporta oo naman,  it will come pero sana lang hindi maging hinderance yung pag-test na yon at hindi maging hindrance 'yung kawalan ng suporta ng mga magulang sa simula para magpa-test yung mga kabataan natin and for them to get medical help also," Seguerra insists.

[Translation: They say that these young patients need support. That support will come but first, there should be no hindrance to being able to take the test. The lack of parental support should not be an obstacle to these young people who must get tested, and for them to get medical help.]

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HIV incidences: 5% uptick in January 2017 and patients getting younger

In the Philippines over 40,000 have reportedly been affected by HIV/AIDS since 1984.

Alarming data by the Department of Health - Epidemiology Bureau shows that the victims are getting younger with more than half of all cases or over 19,000 belonging to the 25 to 34 years old group and 10,279 fall in the 15 to 24 years old age group.

2017 Department of Health data shows that 27 new HIV infections are being detected every day.

But authorities say this number could be significantly greater if everyone was more proactive when it comes to getting tested.

In January 2017 there were 844 cases of infection reported to the HIV/AIDS and ART Registry of the Philippines, five percent higher than the same period last year.

96 percent of the patients are male while only four percent is female.

Also 81 percent of reported infections are happening in male to male sexual encounters.

Currently patients who are under PhilHealth can avail of the PhilHealth outpatient HIV/AIDS treatment or OHAT package.

This benefit amounts to P30,000 per year for members, or qualified dependents living with HIV/AIDS and needing retroviral treatment.

The package can be availed of in any of the 22 treatment hubs and six satellite treatment hubs in the country.