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Group bucks mandatory HIV testing

Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - A network of civil society organizations engaged in HIV and AIDS response in the Philippines has started an online petition urging the Department of Health (DOH) to abandon the idea of mandatory testing for high risk groups.

“Compulsory testing is illegal, ineffective and dangerous,” the Network to Stop AIDS-Philippines said in a petition filed through Change.org.

“Our current legal framework allows for various modes of HIV testing, but they have to be voluntary and confidential. This is clearly rights-based, but this is also informed by existing evidence that coercive modes of HIV testing reduce the take up of testing services,” it added.

The petition has almost 800 supporters as of yesterday.

The network said “compulsory testing is problematic, costly and encourages human rights abuses.”

Instead, they recommended a community-led HIV testing, which it described as legal, cost effective, evidence-informed and human rights-based.

“For the last four years, collaboration between community groups and government-run HIV testing facilities has intensified, resulting into the increase in the uptake on HIV testing, which partly accounts for the increase in new HIV infections recorded by the Philippine HIV/AIDS Registry,” it said.

The network urged Health Secretary Enrique Ona to abandon the idea and instead focus on existing issues about the disease.

“There is an ongoing shortage of life-saving anti-retroviral drugs, there is a lack of funding for local HIV programs, there are gaps in resources and services, and HIV-related stigma and discrimination is still preventing people from getting tested and from accessing crucial HIV services,” read the petition.

“Why resort to unlawful, dangerous and ineffective interventions, when you should be exercising leadership to deliver evidence-based and human rights-informed solutions?” it added.

It was earlier reported the DOH had announced that it is looking into amending the current HIV/AIDS prevention law to allow the conduct of mandatory testing on the so-called “high risk” groups in the country.

The DOH clarified they are planning mandatory HIV testing only for certain high-risk groups and those who will undergo operation.

DOH spokesman Lyndon Lee Suy said the selective mandatory testing is still in “exploratory talks” since it would need an amendment of Republic Act 8504 or the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998.

“Let us be clear – what we actually mean by mandatory testing… we never said that ‘the next day we’ll have all Filipinos lined up here and have them tested for HIV.’ No such thing as that,” Suy said. – Sheila Crisostomo                                              

 

AIDS

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

HEALTH SECRETARY ENRIQUE ONA

HIV

LYNDON LEE SUY

PREVENTION AND CONTROL ACT

REPUBLIC ACT

SHEILA CRISOSTOMO

TESTING

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