Pia Wurtzbach speaks out against revealing drug suspect's HIV status

MANILA, Philippines – Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach spoke out against the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and a Philippine media outlet for revealing the HIV status of a suspect arrested in a drug raid. (READ: 11 nabbed in drug bust operation at BGC hotel)

On Monday, November 27, News5 posted on Facebook the mugshots of those arrested in the raid and disclosed that one of them tested positive for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The post was taken down the next day. (READ: Netizens call out media outlet for baring suspects' mugshots, HIV status)

On Wednesday, November 29, Wurtzbach posted a black photo on Instagram and in the caption, described what happened. She questioned the necessity of the PDEA and News5's actions, saying that "there was absolutely no need to expose and publicly shame" the suspects.

Wurtzbach also cited Republic Act (RA) No. 8504 or the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998. Under the law, it's illegal to publicize a person's HIV status. (PODCAST: There's an HIV law in the PH?)

Article 6 of RA 8504 states that "all health professionals, medical instructors, workers, employers, recruitment agencies, insurance companies, data encoders, and other custodians of any medical record, file, data, or test results are directed to strictly observe confidentiality in the handling of all medical information, particularly the identity and status of persons with HIV."

However, the law is not clear on media disclosure. Dinagat Islands Representative Kaka Bag-ao and Senator Risa Hontiveros have filed bills to address this gap.

Wurtzbach continued: "What has been done has not only traumatized the men that were involved; it has also worsened the HIV situation in the Philippines. We're working so hard in educating the people properly on HIV/AIDS, on taking away the stigma. Because of what PDEA and the news outlet have done, some people are now associating drugs and immorality with being gay. It's ridiculous."

In her post, Wurtzbach also said that the point of the drug raid was not the suspects' sexual orientation or their HIV status. She said: "Being gay is not a crime! Living with HIV is not a punishment! Come on, Philippines. We are already taking small steps forward to improve acceptance, tolerance, and understanding. We cannot take big steps back."

She ended with a message to the PDEA, News5, her fellow Filipinos, and the LGBT community: "To PDEA and the news outlets, take steps to mend the situation. Sa aking mga kababayan, 'wag po tayo maging judgmental. Hindi immoral ang maging bakla, hindi dapat ituring na kaparusahan ang HIV. At lalong hindi ito biro na dapat pagpiyestahan at pagtawanan. To my beloved LGBT community, stay strong. We’ll win this."

(To PDEA and the news outlets, take steps to mend the situation. To my fellow Filipinos, let's not be judgmental. It's not immoral to be gay, HIV should not be considered a punishment. And most importantly, this is not a joke that we should feast on and laugh about. To my beloved LGBT community, stay strong. We'll win this.)

Universe, listen to this. A few days ago a drug bust happened in a high scale hotel in Manila Philippines involving 11 supposedly gay men. Two of them were suspected of selling/distributing drugs. During the operation, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) found out that one of of them was HIV positive. PDEA and local news outlets decided to expose the identities of these men to the media. Their mugshots, names, and the HIV status of one of them were released. Was this really necessary? I understand that what the men were supposedly doing was illegal and they should face legal consequences. But there was absolutely no need to expose and publicly shame them. It’s illegal to publicly announce one’s HIV status (RA8504). What has been done has not only traumatized the men that were involved; it has also worsened the HIV situation in the Philippines. We’re working so hard in educating the people properly on HIV/AIDS, on taking away the stigma. Because of what PDEA and the news outlet have done, some people are now associating drugs and immorality with being gay. It’s ridiculous. The whole point of this drug raid was to arrest the men for their supposed crime, which was selling/distributing and using illegal narcotics. Being gay is not a crime! Living with HIV is not a punishment! Come on, Philippines. We are already taking small steps forward to improve acceptance, tolerance and understanding. We cannot take big steps back. To PDEA and the news outlets, take steps to mend the situation. Sa aking mga kababayan, wag po tayo maging judgmental. Hindi immoral ang maging bakla, hindi dapat ituring na kaparusahan ang HIV. At lalong hindi ito biro na dapat pag-pyestahan at pagtawanan. To my beloved LGBT community, stay strong. We’ll win this. A post shared by Pia Wurtzbach | Miss Universe (@piawurtzbach) on Nov 28, 2017 at 5:31pm PST

 

Wurtzbach is a vocal HIV/AIDS awareness advocate, even speaking about it during her winning answer for Miss Universe 2015.

Her sentiments on the issue echo those of many social media users who have also spoken out about News5's post. – Rappler.com