Confidentiality assured: Unpacking the new HIV-AIDS law

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 11 2019 12:15 PM | Updated as of Jan 11 2019 12:38 PM

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MANILA - Confidentiality and privacy is upheld in the reinforced law on the government response to the growing number of Human Immunodeficiency Virus - Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV-AIDS) cases in the country, the law's main proponent said Friday. 

Apart from mandating the government to establish programs and policies and adopt a multi-sectoral approach to prevent the spread of HIV, the law signed by President Rodrigo Duterte most notably allows people from ages 15 to 24 to have themselves tested even without parental consent. 

There is also counselling offered before the testing "to prepare the person psychologically" in case it renders a positive result, said Sen. Risa Hontiveros, principal author and co-sponsor of the law.

She said there was a 170-percent increase from the 15 to 24 age range and people from this bracket might not even be talking about sex and sexuality with their parents.

A third of the almost 950 new cases of HIV monitored by the Department of Health in November 2018 were from this demographic.

Under the new law, they may get themselves tested in DOH health centers and other service providers ran by non-government organizations for free or at minimal cost, said Hontiveros.

"Yung privacy and confidentiality, isa pa rin yun sa mga prinsipyo na ina-uphold dito sa HIV-AIDS law, kahit pa minor," she told ANC's Headstart.

"Kung HIV positive siya, sasabihin sa kaniya, he/she has the right to know his/her health status and then may encouragement na sabihin, lalo na sa partner kung sexually active. There’s no compulsion, pero highly encouraged na sabihin," she said.

Should the patient decide to talk about his/her condition, he/she would be supported; and if not, he/she would be highly encouraged to pursue healthier sex practices and enter into treatment, said Hontiveros.

The law did not make HIV testing mandatory because of the stigma the society currently has against this and because the government encourages voluntary action at this point in time, she said.

She added, because of the prevailing atmosphere of stigma, having compulsory HIV testing could backfire on people living with HIV or discourage youngsters from taking the test.

"I hope the takeaway from the HIV-AIDS law will be for us parents to just as in the past years little by little learning to talk to our kids about reproductive health, about gender and sexuality, to include in our teaching them about healthy lifestyle awareness about HIV and AIDS," she said.

"I’m hoping that in schools, kasi naging mabagal pa rin ang implementasyon ng age and development-appropriate sexuality and reproductive health education, na maisama din itong edukasyon tungkol sa HIV and AIDS," she added.