House pushes review of AIDS law

Published: June 27, 2011

A member of Congress has urged the multi-sectoral Philippine National AIDS Council to adopt new strategies being pushed by the World Health Organization to reduce the spread of HIV and save men who have sex with men.

“We’ve gone over the WHO’s new public health approaches to scale up HIV services for men who have sex with men and transgender people. These are highly responsive and relevant to the Philippine setting,” said Rep. Arnel Ty the party-list LPG/MA.

 Ty’s statement came shortly after the country’s summer capital, Baguio City, had its first same-sex wedding en mass.

 A self-styled crusader against the spread of HIV/AIDS in the country, Ty said he has filed a House resolution pushing for a congressional review of the 13-year-old AIDS Prevention and Control Law to find new ways to reinforce the fight against the highly contagious disease.

 Citing National HIV/AIDS Registry statistics, Ty pointed out that “men having sex with men” has emerged as the predominant type of sexual transmission of HIV/AIDS in the country.

“If we look at the 654 new HIV cases diagnosed in the country from January to April this year, 47 percent or 305 of them were infected on account of unprotected sexual contact between males,” he said.

 Another 32 percent or 211 of the new cases contracted the ailment as a result of unguarded bisexual encounters, while 18 percent or 116 cases were infected due to uncovered heterosexual contact.

 The National HIV/AIDS Registry lists a total of the 6,669 passively diagnosed cases as of April 30.

 Last week, the WHO issued new global strategies to help policymakers and doctors scale-up access to treatment and prevention services for HIV and sexually transmitted infections among men who have sex with men and transgender people.

“Generally, men who have sex with men are nearly 20 times more likely to be infected with HIV than general populations. HIV infection rates among transgender people range between 8–68 percent depending on the country or region,” the WHO said in a statement.

“One reason for this is the stigma experienced by many men who have sex with men and transgender people. In many countries, criminalization of same sex relationships drives such relationships underground, making people afraid to seek HIV prevention and treatment services. WHO and its partners advise more inclusive approaches and suggest some practical ways to improve their access to HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care services,” the United Nations health agency said.

“We cannot imagine fully reversing the global spread of HIV without addressing the specific HIV needs of these key populations,” said Dr. Gottfried Hirnschall, WHO’s Director of HIV/AIDS Department. “We are issuing these guidelines to help countries and communities scale-up the services needed to reduce new infections and save lives.”

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