• Lawmakers get tested for HIV/AIDS in campaign vs. deadly virus


    An actress turned lawmaker and her two fellow legislators got tested for Human Immunodeficiency Virus/ Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) on Monday in an effort to raise the importance of testing as a way to prevent the spreading of the deadly HIV/AIDS virus.

    The three lawmakers—Reps. Lani Mercado-Revilla of Cavite, Teddy Brawner Baguilat of Ifugao and Ibarra Gutierrez of Akbayan party-list—took the test during the Solons Say YES to HIV Test event held at the Medical Services of the House of Representatives. The HIV/AIDS testing event, will conclude in December 4, is for free.

    The three lawmakers are authors of three separate bills which seek to amend the 1995 AIDS Act by infusing more funding in the state’s efforts of addressing HIV/AIDS infection.

    “I did this to show our people that there is nothing to fear in HIV/AIDS testing, that they should not be ashamed of doing this, and that there are solutions if they are found positive of the HIV/AIDS infection,” Mercado told reporters.

    A person who will subject him or herself from HIV/AIDS infection test will undergo pre-test counseling before the testing proper and would have the option to stay anonymous. The results of the tests are strictly confidential to the one who underwent the test.

    “This is about erasing the stigma and discrimination on those who subject themselves to the HIV/AIDS testing and making sure that those who are vulnerable to the virus, such as men having sex with males, female sex workers and those who share needles in injecting drugs, are provided access to testing centers and treatment if need be,” Baguilat added.

    The number of reported HIV/AIDS cases in the country has increased by 25 percent from 2009 to 2012. Worse, there are 4,000 news HIV/AIDS cases recorded in the country in 2013. The significant increase of new HIV/AIDS cases are in the age bracket of 18 to 24 years old.

    Mercado then urged the government to provide more mobile health centers equipped with HIV/AIDS testing facilities, wherein patients will be given will pre-test counseling and free HIV/AIDS testing services, as well as intensified information drive on how to prevent the acquisition of HIV/AIDS virus.

    “Aside from additional testing clinics, we need additional information about HIV/AIDS, including values formation which children are supposed to get from their parents. Fighting HIV/AIDS is not just about learning how to use condoms for safe sex, but making them youth love and respect their body and stay in a monogamous relationship,” Mercado added.

    “We need to emphasize that submitting to a test is crucial step in stemming further increases of HIV/AIDS cases in the country,” Gutierrez added.

    Country Coordinator Teresita Bagasao of the United Nations Program for HIV/AIDS stressed the importance of the government earmarking fund in addressing HIV/ADIS, considering that most of the Philippine funding in its fight against HIV/AIDS infections comes from external sources.

    “The grant will always be there, but it is also important for the Philippine government to show that it is willing to spend for this initiative, at least shoulder 20 percent of it, to be able to secure the grant, [of funding],” Bagasao said in closing. LLANESCA T. PANTI


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