PDEA says sorry for disclosing HIV status of drug suspect

Rambo Talabong
PDEA says sorry for disclosing HIV status of drug suspect
'We may have gone overboard by violating his right to privacy,' says PDEA chief Aaron Aquino

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) on Wednesday, November 29, apologized to the public for disclosing that one of the arrested suspects in a hotel buy-bust operation is living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS).

“PDEA has expressed regret in the inadvertent mention during a recent press conference that one of the suspects, though his identity was withheld, is infected with HIV. We may have gone overboard by violating his right to privacy,” said PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino in a statement.

The PDEA was slammed by advocates and lawmakers alike for their supposed lack of discretion in revealing private matters when they presented the case to the media on Monday, November 27. (READ: Better police handling, media coverage of drugs and HIV needed)

In the operation, PDEA operatives arrested 11 suspected male drug personalities following a buy-bust operation inside Seda Hotel at the Bonifacio Global City (BGC) in Taguig City. (READ: Pia Wurtzbach speaks out against revealing drug suspect’s HIV status)

From the operation, they seized liquid ecstasy, methamphetamine (shabu), and gamma butyrolactone (GBL).

“During the operation, one suspect admitted that he is HIV positive after yielding to authorities a bottle of medication supposedly for treatment of the disease,” Aquino said. (READ: Netizens call out media outlet for baring suspects’ mugshots, HIV status)

“In our ardent desire to issue a warning that organized passion parties spiked with illegal drugs and involving male-to-male sexual partners may contribute to the high prevalence of HIV infections in the country, we have disregarded the context of privacy. It was never our intention to be insensitive and discriminatory against people with HIV,” the statement added. – Rappler.com

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.