The House of Representatives unanimously approved on third and final reading House Bill 6617 or the proposed “Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act” which seeks to strengthen the government’s comprehensive policy on Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) prevention, treatment, care and support, and to establish the Philippine National HIV and AIDS Plan.
The bill seeks to repeal for the purpose Republic Act No. 8504, otherwise known as the “Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998”.
The measure mandates the formulation of a six-year National Multi-Sectoral HIV and AIDS Strategic Plan or an AIDS Medium-Term Plan (AMTP) which shall be periodically updated by the Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC).
It proposes to reconstitute and streamline the PNAC which was established under RA 8504 to ensure the implementation of the country’s response to the HIV and AIDS epidemic.
The AMTP shall include the country’s targets and strategies in addressing the epidemic; the prevention, treatment, care and support, and other components of the country’s response; the six-year operationalization of the program and identification of the government agencies that shall implement the program as well as the budgetary requirements and a corollary investment plan that identify the sources of funds for its implementation.
The measure also provides for an HIV and AIDS prevention program that shall educate the public on these and other sexually transmitted infections, with the goal of reducing risky behavior, lowering vulnerabilities and promoting the human rights of persons living with HIV.
It tasks the PNAC to promote and adopt a range of measures and interventions, in partnership with civil society organizations (CSOs) that aim to prevent, halt, or control the spread of HIV in the general population, especially among the key populations and vulnerable communities.
These measures shall likewise promote the rights, welfare, and participation of persons living with HIV and the affected children, young people, families and partners of persons living with HIV.
The HIV and AIDS education and prevention programs shall be age-appropriate and based on up-to-date evidence and scientific strategies and shall actively promote safer sex practices among the general population, especially among key populations; safer sex practices that reduce risk of HIV infection; universal access to evidence-based and relevant information and education, and medically safe, affordable, effective and quality treatment; sexual abstinence and sexual fidelity; and consistent and correct condom use.
The term “key affected populations” refers to those groups of persons at higher risk of HIV exposure, or affected populations whose behavior make them more likely to be exposed to HIV or to transmit the virus, as determined by the Department of Health (DOH).
The bill mandates the Department of Education (DepEd), Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to integrate basic and age-appropriate instruction on the causes, modes of transmission, impacts of HIV infection and ways of preventing the spread of HIV and AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, human rights-based principles, and information on treatment, care, and support to promote stigma-reduction in relevant subjects taught in public and private learning institutions, including alternative and indigenous learning systems using standardized information and epidemiological data from the Department of Health (DOH).
Moreover, all public and private employers, and employees, including members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) shall be regularly provided with standardized basic information and instruction on HIV and AIDS, including topics on confidentiality in the workplace and reduction or elimination of stigma and discrimination.
The bill mandates the State to ensure that all overseas Filipino workers and diplomatic, military, trade, and labor officials and personnel to be assigned overseas shall attend a seminar on the causes, manner of prevention and impacts of HIV and AIDS before being granted a certification of overseas assignment.
The PNAC, DOH and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG, in coordination with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), League of Provinces of the Philippines, League of Cities of the Philippines and League of Municipalities of the Philippines, shall develop and disseminate to all provinces, cities and municipalities evidence-based, gender-responsive, age-appropriate, culturally-sensitive and human rights-oriented programs and tools to prevent new infections, halt the spread of HIV and respond to the epidemic in the local communities in a timely, effective and efficient manner.
The bill also provides that the HIV/AIDS education and information dissemination shall form part of the delivery of health services by health practitioners, workers and personnel.
Authors of the bill are Reps. Kaka Bag-ao, Harry Roque, Victor Yap, Deputy Speakers Pia Cayetano, Sharon Garin and Romero Quimbo, Reps. Teddy Brawner Baguilat, Jr., Sandra Eriguel, Estrellita Suansing, Horacio Suansing, Jr., Imelda Marcos, Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, Angelina Tan, Gary Alejano, Gus Tambunting, Tom Villarin, Ron Salo, Raymond Democrito Mendoza, Gabriel Bordado, Jr., Lawrence Fortun, Manuel Jose Dalipe, Edward Vera Perez Maceda, Ramon Rocamora, Elisa Kho, Marlyn Primicias-Agabas, Sol Aragones, Rene Relampagos, Alfredo Garbin, Jr., Linabelle Ruth Villarica, John Marvin Nieto, Teodoro Montoro, Joaquin Chipeco, Jr., Eleanor Bulut-Begtang, Carmelo Lazatin II, Ma. Lucille Nava, Anthony Bravo, Nancy Catamco, Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado, Rodel Batocabe, Christopher Co, Pablo Ortega, Mark Go, Ruby Sahali, Evelina Escudero, Alfred Vargas, Ma. Lourdes Aggabao, Micaela Violago, Romeo, Acop, Michelle Antonio, Cecilia Leonila Chavez, Luisa Lloren Cuaresma, Mario Vittorio Mariño, Wilter Wee Palma II, Carlos Isagani Zarate, Maximo Rodriguez, Jr., Sarah Jane Elago, Florida Robes, Roger Mercado, Anna Marie Villaraza-Suarez, Karlo Alexei Nograles, Rozzano Rufino Biazon, Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo, Leopoldo Bataoil, Ana Cristina Go, Scott Davies Lanete, Celso Lobregat, Len Alonte-Naguiat, Isagani Amatong, Alfredo Benitez, Cheryl Deloso-Montalla, Ann Hofer, Virgilio Lacson, Dennis Laogan, Joseph Stephen Paduano, Deogracias Ramos, Jesus Nonato Sacdalan, Jose Tejada and Sherwin Tugna.