Get tested for HIV, end stigma and discrimination, youth urged
MANILA, Philippines – As more young Filipinos get infected by HIV/AIDS, Senator Risa Hontiveros challenged the youth to help overturn the epidemic during the "Test Yourself" event at the Rizal Technological University on Monday, December 4.
Hontiveros herself underwent voluntary testing to show the public the importance of being informed about the disease, and to care more about one's health status.
“It is an opportunity to defend ourselves by getting ourselves educated," she said.
Hontiveros also urged Filipino youth to stop the stigma and instead show support for people living with HIV (PLHIV).
"Whatever the reason behind a person getting HIV, what is undeniable is that this is a person who needs help, and while there is time, this is a person who deserves just as much of a chance to live a dignified life," she said. (READ: #2030NOW: Best cure for HIV/AIDS stigma? Love and acceptance)
Hontiveros also expressed her gratitude to her co-senators for showing their support in this campaign.
"Natutuwa ako kasi sa naunang HIV screening na ginawa namin sa Senado, marami po sa mga kapwa senador ko, kung hindi man sila personally nagpascreening din ay inencourage ang marami sa mga staffer nila, at yung iba naming kasamang senate employees ay lumahok sa screening bilang sama-sama naming pagdemonstrate," the senator said in an interview with Rappler.
(I am happy that during our first HIV screening in the Senate, my fellow senators encouraged their staff, if not themselves, to get tested. Even other Senate employees had themselves tested.)
PDEA incident a 'lesson'
Last week, netizens slammed the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and a media outlet after they disclosed the HIV status of one of the suspects during a drug bust operation in Fort Bonifacio. (READ: StayNegatHIVe: We need to talk about HIV/AIDS)
Hontiveros said she appreciated PDEA's apology and hoped that the incident taught everyone a lesson. (READ: PDEA says sorry for disclosing HIV status of drug suspect)
"The right to confidentiality of every individual must be respected, hindi lang dahil nasa batas siya (not just because it's the law), but also because revealing very personal information to the public can carry serious unintended consequences that we can’t forsee or address," she said.
Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier said that the Philippine has the “fastest growing” HIV epidemic in the Asia Pacific, with a total of 46,985 HIV positive cases from January 1984 to August 2017.
Around 85% of the PLHIV are Filipino males who have sex with males, with ages raging from 15-24 years old. - Rappler.com
*Editor's note: In a previous version of this story, we referred to PLHIV as victims. We apologize for this error. The correction has been made.