Anti-narcotics chief sorry for revealing drug suspect was ‘HIV positive’

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THE Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) has apologized to the public for revealing that one of the drug suspects arrested in a hotel buy-bust operation in Taguig City was suffering from Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

“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,” PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino said in a statement on Wednesday.

Republic Act 8504 or the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act said that a person with HIV was confidential information except on medical-related issues or if a court subpoena would be issued.

“We may have gone overboard by violating his right to privacy,” Aquino said.


On Sunday, PDEA seized P340,000 worth of “date rape” drugs and other forms of illegal substance that were found in the possession of 11 suspects who were arrested and presented to media.

Aquino said during a press briefing on Monday that one of the suspects admitted that he was HIV positive after bringing out a bottle of medication supposedly for treatment of his disease.

Aquino said, however, that the disclosure stemmed from “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.”

“It was never our intention to be insensitive and discriminatory against people with HIV,” Aquino said.

Netizens were dismayed by the posting of the suspects’ mugshots online, as one news site even placed the photos on its Facebook page with the caption that one of them was “HIV positive.”

In an Instagram post, Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach said that PDEA’s disclosure was “unnecessary”. She said it only worsened the HIV problem in the country.

“Being gay is not a crime! Living with HIV is not a punishment! Come on, Philippines. We are already taking small steps forward to improve acceptance, tolerance and understanding. We cannot take big steps back,” Wurtzbach said in her post. RJ CARBONELL

 

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