MANILA - The number of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive overseas Filipino workers (OFW) is expected to top the 3,000-mark this year, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) said.
In a statement, TUCP president and former senator Ernesto Herrera said this is due to the Department of Labor and Employment's lack of initiative to provide information and raise the awareness of OFWs regarding the disease.
He also noted that under the 1998 AIDS Prevention and Control Law, the labor department should ensure that all OFWs undergo a seminar on the cause, prevention and consequences of HIV/AIDS before a certification for overseas employment is issued.
Herrera made the statement as the number of OFWs known to have been found HIV-positive has already reached 2,800, with the addition of 162 new cases from January to March this year.
He added that OFWs now comprise some 16 percent of the aggregate 17,948 cases in the Philippine HIV and AIDS Registry.
Of this number, 98% acquired the disease due to sexual contact, and 81% of the cases are male.
Meanwhile, Herrera said TUCP is pushing for the passage of a new legislation that would provide greater support to and stronger protection for HIV-positive individuals, particularly against employment and workplace discrimination.
He is referring to Senate Bill 186, the proposed new AIDS Prevention and Control Law, introduced by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago.
The bill seeks to improve the living conditions of HIV-positive people through greater access to treatment, care and support. It also sets tougher penalties for entities and individuals who discriminate against HIV-positive people as well as those who violate their rights to confidentiality.
A total of 1,432 new HIV cases were discovered countrywide from January to March this year, up 31.5 percent from 1,089 in the same quarter in 2013.
Last year, a total of 4,814 cases were detected nationwide, up 44.2 percent compared to 3,338 in 2012.