On HIV/AIDS bills: ‘Awareness is key’

News Release
31 January 2013

Transcript of interview of Sen. Pia S. Cayetano
Topic: Bills seeking to strengthen the Philippines’ comprehensive policy on HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support
Philippine Senate

Link to Senate Bill No.3398 ‘Revised Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy and Prevention Act’: http://senate.gov.ph/lisdata/1507812717!.pdf

Q: On disclosure provision
SPSC: Katulad nga ng sinabi ko, it’s a balancing of interests. Meron kang personal interest, yung confidentiality, versus public health. So it’s important that we are very careful na hindi rin tayo makaapak sa karapatan ng mga tao, but at the same time, may sufficient na ammunition ang ating authorities to also prevent the spread of diseases.

That’s why importante, tinitignan ko rin yung practices sa ibang bansa. Minsan kahit sabihin mong practice na nila yun, matagal na nilang ginagawa yun, nagka-repercussion ba na maganda o hindi? Meron bang mas effective tool? So the purpose of the hearing is to really listen to the issues and to try to see kung ano yung magiging outcome. So I really don’t have a decision yet, nag-iinformation gathering pa lang tayo.

Q: But as it is, ang sinasabi po ng mga stakeholders, tsaka yung sa bill kasi wala pa pong penalty na nire-recommend di po ba?
SPSC: Oo wala pa nga. And I’m inclined na walang penalty yun. Kasi nga, katulad nung sinabi ng maraming stakeholders, kung tutuusin, kung mas maganda ang education, counseling, awareness, it will be natural.

Katulad nito, sinisipon ako, sasabihin ko sa tao ‘huwag n’yo kong halikan, sinisipon ako.’ Pero hindi mo kusang sasabihin, ‘huwag mo kong halikan, may HIV ako.’ It’s a maturity thing, which I also think we need to acknowledge. Na tayo, hindi tayo komportableng pag-usapan yung mga issues related to sex, so yung sakit na nga mahirap nang pag-usapan, yung something pa that has to do with sexuality. So tingin ko talaga, awareness really is key. And that’s really what the advocates are saying. Ang question lang ay kailangan bang ifast-forward natin yung process to give some ammunition to the health authorities to address this.

Ganun din when it comes to the issue ng pagbibigay ng needles sa mga HIV positive na mga drug addict. Kasi, apparently, I’m told that were the only country in the world na wala nitong program na ito. Mahirap tanggapin kasi para mo na ring sinabing ‘pabayaan mo na lang yang addict na yan, kasi tayo pa magbibigay ng needles, yung syringes.’ But on the other hand, we solve another problem, which is the spread of HIV. So there’s no perfect solution. All I’m trying to do is gather evidence. This is the practice in other countries. Tayo pa lang ang wala pang ganun.

Q: Ma’am ano po yung provisions sa bill that will strengthen education on HIV/AIDS…
SPSC: Yung tungkol dun sa pag nagpa-test ka pala, mayroon pala yung counseling before and after. So nae-ensure yun, syempre yung the fact na nagpa-counseling ka, that means siguro sexually active ka, so it ensures na meron kang counseling.

And at the end of the day is also budgeting, because how will you soread this information kung wala ka ring budget. In the curriculum in the schools, you have to have that, in the workplaces, as we know very well, times are changing, and we have industries na nags-sleep over ang mga tao dun. Sabi nga, we have to acknowledge the fact that our youth are exposed to the internet, to materials that talk about sex very openly and we have rising cases of HIV among the age-group of 15-18. So unang-una tanggapin din natin na yun ang katotohanan para ma-address natin. Hindi natin sinasabing pababayaan natin na maging promiscuous yung mga tao. Hindi yun eh. I-acknowledge natin what is happening, and how do we address it.

Q: Ma’am with three session days na lang, hanggang saan po kaya makakarating ito?
SPSC: Yun nga ang sinabi ko, hindi ako sure kung paano natin magagawa with the remaining few days, but at least we’ll try. Sa akin naman I’ll just assume it’s continuing, I’ll still be in the Senate for the next three years, so kung ma-file ko ito at hindi naman pumasa kaagad, itutuloy na lang natin.

Q: Hindi naman babalik sa square one?
SPSC: Babalik kung sa babalik, but for me it’s not square one. Because it’s not as if naka-sampung hearing na ako, it’s not as if dinebate ko na ito, so okay lang naman yun, ‘di ba. It’s part of the process. As we all know I spent so much time on the RH bill. In fact the RH bill, on its own, will already address a lot of issues on HIV/AIDS, mas lalo na yung education and awareness component. Because that’s part of RH law. #

Photo: Sen.Pia Cayetano being interviewed after the Senate health committee hearing on Senate bills seeking to strengthen government’s response to HIV/AIDS

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