The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday lauded the new law that seeks to strengthen the Philippine government’s response to the growing number of Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV-AIDS) cases in the country,
This, after Malacañang announced on Wednesday that President Rodrigo Duterte has signed into law the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act of 2018, or Republic Act 11166.
In a statement, the WHO country office in the Philippines said the new law would not only help elevate attention to the threat of the disease but also address some of the critical bottlenecks in the country’s HIV program.
It is a step in the right direction to reverse the tide of the HIV epidemic and save the lives of many Filipinos.
“We commend the Philippines, including the Department of Health, HIV partners and advocates, for this new HIV law. It is a step in the right direction to reverse the tide of the HIV epidemic and save the lives of many Filipinos,” the WHO statement said.
It noted that HIV continues to be a serious health threat in the country with a record high of 32 reported infections per day.
WHO is optimistic RA 11166 will help in expanding access to evidence-based HIV prevention strategies, noting that access to the means to prevent sexual transmission of HIV and transmission associated with drug use, such as condoms and other commodities, remains a critical need for curbing the rising epidemic.
In addition, WHO welcomed the provision of the law that facilitates easier access to learning about one’s HIV status, in particular for young people aged 15 years old and above, who can now undergo an HIV test without parental or guardian consent.
“This is critical to intensify the response among the youth, who represent 62 percent of new HIV infections in the country. HIV testing is now also a routine procedure of prenatal care to prevent HIV infection from mother to child during pregnancy, labor and breastfeeding,” it added.
The law also paves the way for urgently needed acceleration of access to free HIV treatment and related illnesses. Treatment coverage in the Philippines remains low with only 36 percent of people living with HIV getting treatment.
In addition, the law embeds HIV/AIDS in universal health care by tasking PhilHealth to develop a revised benefit package including medication and diagnostics for in-patients and out-patients that denial of health, accident and life insurance coverage to people living with HIV is now unlawful.
“We share the call of the Department of Health to be vigilant in ensuring that the law is fully and properly implemented. The next step of developing the implementing rules and regulations is vital and WHO will support the DoH in this endeavor,” the statement said.