The government needs P1.2 billion to combat the HIV epidemic that is sweeping the nation.
Dr. Ferchito Avelino, executive director of the Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC), said the amount can be used to boost the campaign by the Department of Health (DOH) and other government agencies to stop the rise of HIV cases.
HIV is short for immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.
The DOH’s Philippine HIV-AIDS Registry said 934 people were infected with HIV in the first two months of 2014. Majority of the victims came from Metro Manila and were males who had homosexual contact. Worse, most of the victims were asymptomatic or had no symptoms.
With the budget, Avelino said the Department of Education (DepEd) can intensify its HIV information dissemination campaign in schools to spread knowledge about the disease and fight the stigma endured by people living with HIV due to misconceptions and the wrong information.
The budget will also enable the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to help prostitutes live normal lives by giving them decent livelihood opportunities.
It will also ensure that anti-HIV medicines or antiretrovirals (ARVs), will be accessible to those who need them.
“For jobless PLHIV who are ashamed to work, their plight will be addressed by DOLE and the CSC. For policemen who arrest sex workers and risk getting AIDS, their cases will be handled by the DILG,” he added.
Avelino said information about HIV and AIDS is now a text message away with the recent launching of “TXT HIV to 8504.”This is a project of the Philippine NGO Support Program (PHANSUP), PNAC, Social Hygiene Clinics of four local government units in Metro Manila, and a local telecommunications company.
By sending the word “HIV” to 8504, a subscriber can receive a series of messages and interactive voice responses containing HIV information, risk assessment, and can be referred to participating health facilities that offer confidential HIV testing and hospitals that provide ARVs.
Avelino explained that reducing the prevalence of HIV in the country is still a multi-dimensional issue – the reason why policies on preventing HIV and AIDS should be examined regularly.
In a briefing last month, AKO-BICOL party-list representative Rodel Batocabe presented an amendment to Republic Act 8504 – the AIDS prevention and control law—to inform people 15 to 24 years old who want to undergo HIV testing and counseling that they no longer need parental consent to do so.