MANILA — Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat has asked the Senate to enact a law that would provide a comprehensive program for the prevention, treatment and care of persons afflicted with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Baguilat said the existing law, Republic Act No. 8504, also known as the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998, appears to be no longer adequate to combat the disease.
He labeled the increase in HIV cases as “fast and furious” since 6,011 new HIV cases were recorded last year, with 509 in new cases being registered last December, an increase of 42 percent compared to December 2013.
Baguilat spoke about the issue at a forum organized by the Philippine Legislators’ Committee in Population and Development (PLCPD) at the Alex III Restaurant along Morato St. in Quezon City yesterday morning.
He authored House Bill 5178 that the House of Representatives approved in December 2014.
The Senate still has to pass its own version of the bill.
Statistics are not reassuring as about 40 million people worldwide suffer from the disease and 35 million have died from HIV since it was first detected.
PLCPD said it sponsored the forum, with the theme “Break barriers, end the trend: Addressing the HIV epidemic in the Philippines,” in partnership with the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) and funding support from UNAIDS Philippines.
“We need a more aggressive response to this growing concern. We want zero new infections. A stronger law will enable us to achieve this goal,” Baguilat said.
“We have to ensure that more funds will be appropriated for comprehensive services on HIV prevention and treatment and care and support for the afflicted. We also need to intensify our campaign to educate the public—especially key affected populations— about HIV and provide the necessary medical support for people living with HIV,” Baguilat stressed.
Bai Bagasao, UNAIDS country director, explained that the lack of adequate knowledge on how the virus is acquired and the very low rate of use of prophylactics like condom are the factors behind the rapid increases of HIV cases.
“It is important that we educate people on how HIV is transmitted and how it can be avoided. We must bust the myths and misinformation on HIV. It is also important that we ensure availability and access to information about HIV and HIV-related products and services. Through these, we can help reduce the probability of people getting infected and thus save lives in the long haul,” Bagasao argued.
Anti-AIDS advocate Wanggo Gallaga, an activist and writer, called on various media outlets to support the campaign to eliminate HIV infection.
A total of 22,527 HIV cases have been documented since 1984, or barely three years after the United States formally announced the existence of HIV and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS.)
The most common mode of viral transmission was sexual contact, followed by needle sharing when injecting drugs even as majority of those afflicted acquired the virus through sex, particularly among men having sex with men (MSM.)
In the United States, approximately one million people are currently infected. Globally, 85 percent of HIV transmission is through heterosexual intercourse but more than half of the cases in the US materialized through MSM.
Before HIV was detected and consequently the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) was found, the first cases came by way of gay men afflicted with Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) and, later on, Kaposl’s sarcoma (KS.)
These cases were reported in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report for June 5, 1981 and doctors later found out that all the patients were immunodeficient and their immune systems could not fight off even simple infections.
The initial diagnosis had the acronym GRID or Gay Related Immunodeficiency Disease that later evolved into AIDS.
This disease was found among intravenous drug users, Haitians and hemophiliacs, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) traced the sexual contacts of a small group of 40 patients suffering from KS, PCP, and other opportunistic infections.
All cases could be traced to the single index case, called Patient Zero, a French Canadian flight attendant Gaetan Dugas.