A mandatory human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing for those at risk of contracting the HIV infection is tantamount to bringing back Adolf Hitler’s Nazi rule characterized by discrimination and cruelty, lawmakers said on Friday.
Congressmen Romero Quimbo of Marikina City, Rodel Batocabe of Ako Bicol party-list, Ibarra Gutierrez of Akbayan party-list, Terry Ridon of Kabaataan party-list and Luz Ilagan of Gabriela party-list protested against the statement of Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Eric Tayag that DOH Sec. Enrique Ona was mulling a shift from voluntary to compulsory testing.
The HIV, contracted through unsafe sex, having multiple sex partners and sharing of needles with infected persons, causes the deadly Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). A person infected with HIV/AIDS needs a lifetime of treatment because a cure has yet to be discovered.
“[Mandatory testing is] a Gestapo tactic; a knee jerk reaction that will not solve the problem. In fact, it will become worse. You cannot compel groups at risk of [contracting]HIV to submit themselves to a test. This would only drive them to go underground, making it more difficult to find them,” Quimbo, a lawyer and the chairman of the House ways and means panel, said in a text message.
The Gestapo was the secret police of Nazi Germany and Germany-occupied Europe responsible for the arrest and eventual extermination of at least six million Jews, whom Hitler believed to be an inferior race.
“Coercion such as mandatory testing is never effective as a means to solve problems or achieve targets. Look at communist collectivization, racial segregation and the Nazis’ natural selection. These measures attack human dignity,” Batocabe, also a lawyer, explained in a separate message.
“In a society where stigma and discrimination against HIV patients remain, forcing more people to take HIV tests will only drive away potential patients from medical institutions and testing centers,” Gutierrez added.
Ridon and Ilagan, for their part, argued that the mandatory HIV testing for those at risk was tantamount to unfairly judging a certain sector of society.
“Mandatory HIV testing might have some human rights and discrimination issues as it would compel persons to be tested against their will and puts entire groups of people into conclusive stereotypes of HIV infection,” Ridon, also a lawyer, pointed out in a separate talk.,
“I am not in favor of mandatory testing because that would be discriminatory, judgmental and violate the confidentiality aspect. The testing should be voluntary,” Ilagan added.
The existing AIDS law madates that HIV testing should be voluntary.
Tayag noted that the Health department is mulling the taking of drastic actions, considering that 498 new HIV cases were recorded in March of this year alone.
Batocabe, however, reminded the Health department that it has strongly advocated the Reproductive Health (RH) law, a measure that is pro-choice and aims to mitigate the prevalence of risky sexual behavior.
The RH law, enacted into law in December 2013, mandates the state to provide couples access to both natural and artificial family planning information and methods, including contraceptives such as condoms and pills, so that couples would only bear children whom they can raise in a humane way.
“The Health department fought for the passage of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law which is anchored on the principles of the freedom of choice, including sexual health and rights. It would be a setback if the agency would impose a procedure that is insensitive and potentially life-altering,” Batocabe lamented.