In the recently concluded Philippine National AIDS Council plenary meeting, the DOH head unwittingly suggested that in order to address the rapid rise of HIV cases in the country, “parents should rein in their homosexual children and get them tested.”
The Ladlad group was left aghast by the DOH head’s discriminatory statements. “Sec. Ona should be prudent with his remarks. I am personally asking him to act befitting his stature as a medical doctor and head of the DOH.” said Ms. Bemz Benedito, Ladlad chairperson. “He should resign from his post, because bigotry and insensitivity has no place in public service specifically for high-ranking officials,” Benedito added.
The DOH Secretary elaborated further on how to solve the HIV crisis: “I was just given the information that, for example, the Partylist Ladlad has 67,000 members. Let’s just assume that there are 100,000 of them and get the ages, from say, 20-35 and ask all of them to have HIV/AIDS test. Wouldn’t that be a practical solution too?”
“Now, I presume that Sec. Ona is becoming senile and can no longer confront what is right and what is wrong,” Benedito said. “I would like to remind the good secretary that his proposal is a violation of our human rights as to our right to privacy and of choice,” the Ladlad chairperson added. “We should all be very compassionate in dealing HIV cases, no matter how alarming it is,” Benedito stressed.
Ladlad said, the Health Secretary’s comment was not at all helpful in a time of crisis. In a recent survey, the Philippines is one of the seven countries worldwide that is experiencing an acceleration in the spread of the HIV epidemic. The latest HIV and AIDS Registry (September 2011) recorded 8 new HIV infections a day -- a steep increase from the one case a day that was reported four years ago.
Moreover, there is another major setback as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria cancelled Phases 1 and 2 of its Round 11 funding for 2013-2017—a $2-billion dollar worth of funding which would have saved a lot of lives here in the Philippines.
Ladlad is also calling on the government to find a way to resolve the problem quickly because People Living with HIV (PLHIV) are dependent on free medicines given through the Global Fund.
Part of the Platforms of government of Ladlad is to set up testing centers for HIV/AIDS in major cities in the country. The group has now more than 50,000 members all over the Philippines and will run as partylist in 2013 elections.