De Lima calls for Senate probe on HIV/AIDS prevalence among youth

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Senator Leila M. de Lima has expressed alarm over the rising number of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) incidence among Filipinos, notably among those belonging to the age group 15-34.

De Lima filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 475 to look into the growing number of HIV and AIDS-diagnosed persons and assess the implementation of Republic Act No. 8504, also known as the Philippine Aids Prevention and Control Act of 1998.

“This alarming increase of HIV incidence involving Filipino youth can be attributed not only to the lack of HIV awareness in the country but also to the advent of technology which makes finding sexual partners online easy, what with the rise of online dating applications. With this, people are lured to unsafe sex,” she said.

“As such, the government should address this growing youth epidemic especially because the State had a mechanism aimed to prevent the extensive outbreak of this disease from happening since 1998,” she added.

This May, the Department of Health (DOH) reported a total of 1,098 new HIV antibody sero-positive individuals to the HIV/AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP), which is said to be 48% higher compared to the same period last year.

Disturbingly, the same data shows that the percentage of HIV positive cases in the age group 15-24 increased from 25 percent in 2006-2010 to 28 percent in 2011-2016.

DOH also reported that out of the 42283 HIV-positive recorded persons in the country as of March 2017, 11,550 are from the age group 15-24, noting how the age group with the biggest record of cases is gradually shifting into the younger generation, from 35-39 in 2001-2005 to 25-34 starting 2006.

Also, the Commission on Population in March this year disclosed that upon conducting various regional studies using the data from the 2013 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality 4 (YAFS 4), the study results revealed that youth were engaging in sex as early as or even before 18 years old. Among the most prominent factors for sexual engagement for young people was access to Internet and social media.

Given these alarming incidents among the Filipino youth, the Senator from Bicol said the government must increase its efforts on HIV/AIDS awareness to lower, if not eliminate, the number of persons affected by the disease, in the future.

“There is a need for the implementing institutions, notably the Department of Health, Department of Education and Commission on Higher Education to intensify its implementation of the mechanisms currently in place, and to evaluate and review if these are still sufficient and responsive to the present circumstances,” she added.

The former chairperson of Commission on Human Rights said she finds it significant for the appropriate Senate committee to look into possible review and revisions of RA 8505 to make it adaptable to the present day.

“It is imperative for the Senate as part of the policy-making body of the government to review any existing laws and look into how these concerned government agencies are addressing the campaign against HIV/ AIDS, especially among the youth,” she added.

For the Senator, looking into these cases of HIV/AIDS is necessary, given that the 1987 Constitution also guarantees that the State shall promote the right to health of the people and instill consciousness among them.

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