By Mario Casayuran
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) and other law-enforcement agencies should have themselves trained on the ethics and protocols in the proper handling of persons living with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Sen. Risa Hontiveros made this plea following the recent buy-bust operation in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig over the weekend where 11 men were reportedly caught using ‘’ecstasy,’’ a party drug.
One of the men was tested positive for HIV and his identity was unecessarily disclosed by the PDEA during its press briefing.
Hontiveros said disclosure of a person’s HIV status without his or her consent is against Republic Act No. 8504 or the Philippine AIDS and Prevention Control Act of 1998.
PDEA Director Derrick Carreon has since apologized saying that “there was no intention to shame, much less single out one person.”
The senator welcomed PDEA’s apology ‘’but we cannot ignore the mental and emotional damage already inflicted on the said person.’’
‘’Living with HIV is not a crime. Whatever legal and criminal charges he is facing, testing positive for HIV has nothing to do with them,’’ she explained.
Hontiveros said that PDEA and other law enforcement agencies must ensure that the said incident does not happen again.
“I call on our authorities to apprise themselves of all the current laws, protocols and systems of dealing with people living with HIV. Our law enforcers can’t afford to be ignorant of these things. Lack of understanding promotes stigma and biases,” she said.
Hontiveros lamented that this incident happened a few days before the country observes World AIDS Day on December 1.
She also urged the public to be more sensitive in social media and online public discussions surrounding the HIV status of a person. “I personally know some people living with HIV and I’d like to tell the public that they are human beings just like us. A person’s HIV-status does not define him or her.”
Hontiveros is the author and champion of the Philippine HIV-AIDS Policy Bill or Senate Bill No. 376. The bill seeks to address the gaps in the current law that governs the government’s response towards HIV-AIDS.
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