“(The Department of Health) saw that HIV cases is high among men having sex with men…. It’s as if since I’m gay, I need to be tested,” Owie, who is openly gay, told newsinfo.inquirer.ne.
The Philippines is one of the top countries with the fastest growing HIV cases in the world, according to a United Nations study in 2012.
The Department of Health has this March recorded 17,948 HIV cases, from just two in 1984, when the agency first started its tally and recorded that 45 percent of cases were through men having sex with men.
The department’s spokesperson Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy told newsinfo.inquirer.ne that their plan to make HIV testing mandatory is “not for all.”
Owie said the Department of Health’s proposed plan stereotypes the gay community as spreading HIV.
A group of HIV rights activists plans to file charges against the department if it pushes through with the mandatory HIV testing plan.
Dr. RV Cruz from Quezon City said that mandatory HIV testing is illegal since it goes against Republic Act 8504 or the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act.
Mara Bondad, executive director for Action for Health Initiatives, also called the Department of Health’s plan a “witch hunt” on people already faced with the stigma of having the virus.
The department should instead provide better services for Filipinos living with HIV, she added.
The government department’s move is seen as a way to avoid diplomatic encumbrances.
The country has approximately 10.5 million Filipinos or 11 percent of the population working abroad, with majority of them in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and other West Asian countries notorious for deporting workers with HIV.
Owie who worked as a waiter in Saudi Arabia was upon being diagnosed with HIV dismissed from his job, quarantined and deported.
He said he didn’t want to experience the same discrimination again, not in his own country.
The Department of Health is pushing for the amendment of Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998 in order to allow the implementation of mandatory HIV screening.
According to Lee Suy, the current AIDS law prohibits HIV testing when used as preconditions to “employment, admission to educational institutions, exercise of freedoms of abode, entry or continues stay in the country, or right to travel, or provision of medical services.”
You may watch an interview with the gay rights activists here: