House approves HIV, AIDS bill on third and final reading

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The first case of HIV infection in the Philippines was reported in 1984.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 4) — The House of Representatives approved on third and final reading a bill aiming to strengthen measures against the epidemic of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection in the Philippines.

The chamber voted on Monday, 188-0-0, to pass the proposed "Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act," or House Bill 6617.

The measure will streamline the Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC) to properly implement the country's response to the HIV and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) situation. The council was first created under Republic Act 8504, or the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998, to help prevent the spread of HIV.

Reports from the latest HIV and AIDS registry of the country show, 31 new cases of HIV infection have been recorded every day from July to August this year.

The Department of Health (DOH) said as of 2016, the Philippines has 56,000 HIV cases. It added, the number may almost triple by 2022 if HIV prevention measures do not become more effective in the next five years.

The bill will create a six-year plan updated regularly by the council, to assess the country's methods and strategies to address the HIV and AIDS situation.

The bill also seeks to educate the public through age-appropriate HIV and AIDS prevention programs, with the Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority taking the lead.

Discriminatory acts against people living with HIV have stiffer penalties compared with the law. Those who commit violations shall incur a penalty of imprisonment of six months to five years, as well as a fine P50,000 to P500,000.

Among the discrminatory acts include:

  • discrimination in the workplace

  • discrimination in learning institutions

  • restrictions on travel

  • restrictions on shelter

  • inhibition from public services

  • exclusion from credit and insurance services

  • discrimination in hospitals and health institutions

  • denial of burial services

  • acts of bullying

The bill also maintains the confidentiality of the HIV status of any individual.

The passage of the bill comes after the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency  publicly disclosed on November 25 that one of the drug suspects it has arrested had HIV.

READ: PDEA apologizes for baring drug suspect's HIV status

The Senate version of the bill is on its second reading.