Duterte signs law boosting HIV, AIDS response

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

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 9) — President Rodrigo Duterte has signed into law a measure to strengthen the government's response to Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) cases.

Malacañang announced Wednesday that Duterte signed the HIV and AIDS Policy Act of 2018 into law on December 20.

"We consider its enactment and signing timely and relevant on account of the report of the Department of Health disclosing that our country has the highest percentage relative to the the increase of new HIV cases in the Asia-Pacific region from 2010 to 2016," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.

The Department of Health (DOH) recorded 945 new HIV cases in November 2018, with 18 percent of these or 174 in an advanced stage. Most of them were male and on average were 27 years old at the time they tested positive.

There has been a sharp increase in HIV cases daily, with the number jumping from 13 in 2013 to 22 in 2015 and 32 in 2018.

Panelo said the law would significantly reduce the stigma of people living with HIV or AIDS.

"It is an institutional victory that will certainly make our healthcare services more responsive to the needs of the people. Many lives have been unnecessarily lost due to AIDS, including the lives of many young people. Today, we change the course of this rising epidemic and hopefully, help usher in an AIDS-free generation," Senator Risa Hontiveros, the principal author of the bill, said in a statement.

Under the law, the DOH would establish a program for free and accessible anti-retroviral treatment and medication for people living with HIV.

It also mandates the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation to develop a benefit package to include coverage for inpatient and outpatient medical and diagnostic services, including medication and treatment.

The law also allows minors aged 15 to under 18 to get tested for HIV even without the consent of their parents or legal guardian.

It also requires all schools to teach students of the causes, modes of transmission and prevention of HIV, AIDS and other sexually-transmitted infection.

Without prior announcement from Malacañang, Kabayan party-list Rep. Ron Salo earlier said the HIV and AIDS Policy Act lapsed into law.

During a Malacañang briefing Tuesday, Panelo did not confirm whether the law was signed or if it automatically became a law 30 days after Congress transmitted it to the President for his signature.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Ina Andolong contributed to this report.