Press Release
June 5, 2015


Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago today urged her colleagues to act on measures aimed at strengthening efforts at prevention, treatment, and awareness of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) in the country.

Santiago, co-sponsor of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act, sounded the alarm after the Department of Health (DOH) reported 560 new HIV infections in April, 42 percent higher than the same period in 2014.

Noting that 30 percent of new cases were 15 to 24 years old, the senator said that "the alarming increase in HIV infections requires immediate action from various institutions, including Congress, which must address the gaps in the existing HIV and AIDS law."

Santiago has filed Senate Bill No. 186 or the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy and Plan Act, and S.B. No. 2728 or the Stop AIDS in Prisons Act. She is also set to file another bill that will expand HIV testing and treatment to include the youth.

"The current HIV and AIDS legal framework conflicts with efforts of the health sector to stop the spread of HIV," the senator said, adding that aside from treatment and awareness programs, mechanisms to reduce social stigma are also necessary.

The Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Plan Bill seeks to amend R.A. No. 8504 or the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998, by harmonizing it with evidence-informed strategies and approaches on prevention, treatment, care, and support.

The Stop AIDS in Prisons Act, meanwhile, will create an HIV-AIDS awareness program in jails, provide comprehensive medical treatment to inmates living with HIV/AIDS, and protect prison guards and other personnel from infection.

By filing a new bill on Monday, Santiago will push for further amendments to the AIDS Prevention and Control Act to allow minors aged 15 to 17 years old to give consent to HIV testing and treatment without parental consent provided that:

1. The minor is living independently;

2. The minor is pregnant;

3. The minor is already a parent or has suffered a miscarriage;

4. The minor has no contact with parents of guardians;

5. The minor has clinical condition that suggests infection with HIV;

6. The knowledge of HIV status is in the best interest of the minor; or

7. The minor is part of the key populations as determined by the Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC)

"The law requires minors to first obtain written parental consent before they can be tested for HIV. This limits the access of minors to potentially life-saving treatment and care, especially since many young people lack the finances to pay for health care," Santiago said.

Apart from proposed laws, Santiago has filed several resolutions urging the Senate to investigate the HIV-AIDS situation. These include Senate Resolution No. 724, urging public hearings on the need for DOH to declare a national emergency amid the rise of HIV cases.

Santiago remains on medical leave due to lung cancer, stage four. But she continues to perform her functions on a priority basis. As of May 14, she has filed 1,249 bills and resolutions--the highest among senators--from the start of 16th Congress.

Act Amending the Philippine AIDS Law

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