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AIDS bannerNew year brings new hope! This comes with the signing of President Rodrigo Duterte, the Republic Act 11166 or the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act of 2018. This repeal the Philippines AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998, which was hounded by the growing spread of the virus in the country.

The data from the Department of Health showed that in September 2018 alone, there were 954 new HIV positive reported to the HIV and AIDS and Antiretroviral Theraphy (ART) registry of the Philippines, which brings the total confirmed HIV cases to 59,135 since the first case was reported in 1984. Furthermore, 271 of the confirmed positive cases are between the ages 15-24 years old, with 34

newly diagnosed cases of HIV among adolescent 10-19 years old with four (4) newly diagnosed children less than 10 years old. For Region XII, we have a cumulative case (1984 to September 2018) of 1342. The reported cases on the different provinces and cities were as follows: Cotabato Province 262, Cotabato City 89, General Santos City 420, Sarangani Province 78, South Cotabato 368 and Sultan Kudarat Province 125.

To this day, many people living with HIV/AIDS are keeping silent or keeping their condition a secret from their family, relatives and friends because of stigma of the disease. The RA 11166 makes it a criminal offence with corresponding imprisonment and fines, for discriminating person with HIV and AIDS in employment, education, shelter, basic and burial services. It pushes for “age appropriate” information in school and workplace. Also, testing, treatment and confinement for HIV and AIDS will be covered by PhilHealth under the new law.

The most important provision of RA 11166 - allowing teenagers from 15 – 18 years old or even younger if they are pregnant or engaged in a high - risk behavior to undergo HIV testing without parental consent. Other highlights of the law include the removal of RA 8504 statement against birth control and framing HIV services as part of the “right to health”.

With this new law it makes health services more accessible to Filipinos. Early diagnosis and treatment can save more lives – with timely treatment HIV and AIDS need not be a death sentence. It is good news for us, but we still have to wait for the drawing up of the Implementing Rules and Guidelines of this new law.