Netizens call out media outlet for baring suspects’ mugshots, HIV status

Raisa Serafica
Netizens call out media outlet for baring suspects’ mugshots, HIV status
Netizens argue that such actions reinforce the stigma attached to the LGBTQ community and people living with HIV

MANILA, Philippines – Netizens and advocates from the lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transexual, and queer (LGBTQ) community slammed the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and a media outlet for baring the mugshots of suspects arrested in a drug raid, and disclosing that one of them tested positive for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

According to them, such actions violate Republic Act 8504 or the Philippines AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998, noting that they revealed the identities of the suspects while “creating a media frenzy around their sexual orientation,” and implying that one of them is a person living with HIV.  (PODCAST: There’s an HIV law in the PH?

This comes only three days before the world observes the “World AIDS day” on Friday, December 1. (READ: 11 nabbed in drug bust operation at BGC hotel)  

On Monday night, November 27, News5 posted on Facebook the mugshot photos of the suspects involved in a drug raid, adding in the caption that one of them tested positive for HIV. It later edited the caption to remove the note about the HIV reference. (READ: Orgies and Tinder: Millennials are having sex, some with a deadly price

On Tuesday morning, November 28, News5 took down the Facebook post.

Netizens argued that by revealing the suspects’ identities and exposing one of them as HIV-positive, News5 and PDEA only helped reinforce the stigma attached to the LGBTQ community and PLHIV. 

Dinagat Island Representative Kaka Bag-ao also weighed in on the issue and slammed the media outlet and PDEA for disclosing one of the suspect’s HIV status. 

“Huwag nating ipagpatuloy ang pagbibigay ng stigma sa pagkakaroon ng HIV…Napakarami pa ring misconceptions at misinformation ang kumakalat. Binigyan pa ng mga ulat na ito ng pagkakataon ang mga taong kulang sa kaalaman na husgahan kaagad ang mga PLHIV sa social media,”  Bag-ao said in a statement. 

(We should refrain from reinforcing the stigma attached to PLHIV. There are a lot of misconceptions and misinformation spreading everywhere. The reports also gave those who know little about the issue an opportunity to judge those with PLHIV on social media.) 

Here are some social media posts surrounding the issue:



On media disclosure 

Who has the right to expose the a person’s HIV status?

While there is a law primarily aimed at protecting the rights of people living with HIV (PLHIV) that was enacted in 1998, advocates argue that the country needs new and updated legal provisions in light of the current epidemic faced by the Philippines

Earlier in August 2017, the Department of Health (DOH) cited the latest data from the UNAIDS Report on global HIV epidemic states and announced that the Philippines has the “fastest growing” HIV epidemic in Asia Pacific.

According to the report, the new HIV cases among Filipinos more than doubled from 4,300 in 2010 to 10,500 in 2016. 

Article 6 of the HIV law 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.” (INFOGRAPHIC: How is HIV transmitted?

However, the law does not clarify any prohibition in media on HIV disclosure. 

Pending bills filed by Bag-ao and Senator Risa Hontiveros seek to address this gap by strengthening the confidentiality clause of the current HIV law. 

The bill prohibits media from disclosing “the names, pictures, without the prior written consent of their subjects [PLHIV] except when the persons waive said confidentiality through their own acts and omissions” under the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 and the National Privacy Act of 2012.  – 


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Raisa Serafica

Raisa Serafica is the Unit Head of Civic Engagement of Rappler. As the head of MovePH, Raisa leads the on ground engagements of Rappler aimed at building a strong community of action in the Philippines. Through her current and previous roles at Rappler, she has worked with different government agencies, collaborated with non-governmental organizations, and trained individuals mostly on using digital technologies for social good.