• Discrimination against HIV carriers

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    Persida Acosta

    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    As an employee for a private company, one of the benefits we are given is the discounted medical checkup and services. I tried to avail our company’s medical service from our health provider, but I was surprised when they turned me down because they told me that since my life partner was diagnosed to be a carrier of HIV, I am deemed a high-risk patient to which they claim they can decline giving me their services. I was also told that I may avail some of their services, but with additional charge considering my “high-risk HIV carrier” status.

    Is this legal for them to do? I feel like I am being discriminated against even though there have been no conclusive findings that I am also infected with AIDS. Do I have a right against their discrimination against me? Please advise me on my rights regarding this matter. Thank you in advance, and Godbless!
    Noy

    Dear Noy,
    Republic Act 8504 or the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998 embodies and implements the policy of the State to extend to every person suspected or known to be infected with the human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) full protection of their human rights and civil liberties, which include provisions on discrimination against individuals with HIV or perceived to be having HIV (Sec. 2(b)(3)).

    This law expressly prohibits all forms and subtleties of discriminatory acts and policies against HIV carriers, even to those suspected carriers, in all environments including discrimination in health institutions. According to Article VII, Section 40 of this law:

    “No person shall be denied health care service or be charged with a higher fee on account of actual, perceived or suspected HIV status.”

    As expressly stated in this cited provision, being an HIV carrier or a suspected carrier is not a legal reason to deny anyone health care services or charge them any additional fee since this is a clear discriminatory act against HIV carriers or suspected carriers.

    And from this provision alone, it is clear that the health provider of your company is in violation of this law when they discriminated against you by denying their services to you and even offering to charge you with additional fees due to their suspicion that you are a “high-risk HIV carrier”. This kind of discrimination is exactly what R.A. No. 8504 prohibits and penalizes.

    In penalizing this form of discrimination, the law states that:

    All discriminatory acts and policies referred to in this Act shall be punishable with a penalty of imprisonment for six (6) months to four (4) years and a fine not exceeding Ten thousand pesos (P10,000.00). In addition, licenses/permits of schools, hospitals and other institutions found guilty of committing discriminatory acts and policies described in this Act shall be revoked (Section 42, RA 8504).

    Considering the severity of the punishment against this kind of discrimination to HIV carriers or suspected carriers, it is best that your company’s health care provider or any other health care institutions reconsider their decision to deny you their services. Otherwise, they may be held liable for their violation of the anti-discriminatory provisions of RA 8504, and face stiff penalties as herein provided by the aforementioned law.

    Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.

    We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

    Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net

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