UNDP and CHR hold dialogue on HIV and human rights

06 Jul 2012

image Advocates and government officials discussed situation and response on HIV and human rights in the Philippines. With almost three decades into the AIDS response, stigma and discrimination against PLHIV remain a major challenge in the country. (Photo: UNDP Philippines)


Manila
– With the escalating increase in HIV epidemic in the Philippines, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) convened a landmark dialogue to discuss the situation and response on HIV and human rights in the country.

“It is widely recognized that stigma and discrimination have fueled the transmission of HIV, and have greatly increased the negative impact associated with the epidemic,” noted Renaud Meyer, UNDP Country Director. “HIV-related stigma and discrimination create major barriers to preventing further infection, alleviating impact and providing adequate treatment, care and support to people who need it most.”

The past report from the National AIDS Registry of the Department of Healthhas revealed yet another increase in new reported HIV cases in the country. From one new case detected every three days in 2006, the reported HIV incidence accelerated to about one every two hours or 10 per day in the first quarter of 2012.

“Nearly 30 years of experience in responding to the challenge of HIV and AIDS has shown that the most effective approach to HIV is one based on human rights,” Meyer further noted.

However, with almost three decades into the AIDS response, stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV (PLHIV) remain a major challenge in the country. Although protection of human rights of people living with HIV is enshrined in the Philippine AIDS Law, the 2009 PLHIV Stigma Index Report revealed that one of two Filipinos living with HIV had their rights violated in the prior year of the study. According to the report, some people living with HIV were detained, quarantined or segregated, forced to submit themselves to medical or health procedure, refused provision of basic health services, and denied health or life insurance because of their HIV status.

The prevailing stigma attached to AIDS and the discrimination actually experienced by people living with HIV have resulted in a low uptake of services by people most-at-risk, vulnerable and living with HIV. The 2011 Philippine Country Report on Universal Access to HIV Prevention, Treatment, Care, and Support confirmed it by recording coverage for HIV prevention services among key populations at higher risk ofonly 38%, which is way below the country’s Universal Access target of 80%.

To respond to this situation, legal reform on HIV and AIDS is underway, which seeks to address gaps in the existing law. Part of this reform is the pending House Bill 5312, “The National Comprehensive HIV and AIDS Prevention, Treatment Care and Support Policy and Plan Act of 2011,” authored by Representatives Kaka Bag-ao, Maria Isabelle Climaco, Jorge Banal, Arnel Ty and Janette Garin. The proposed bill seeks to strengthen the country’s policy on HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support including stigma reduction mechanisms of the law.

Today’s event serves as a prelude to theglobal launchingof the report ofthe Global Commission on HIV and the Law, an independent body of leaders and experts convened by UNDP. On Monday, 9 July 2012, the Commission will hold its final event – a Global Dialoguetogether with the launching of the Commission’s report, the coherent and compelling evidence baseon human rights and legal issuesrelating to HIV. Therefore, recommendations from today’s dialogue and that of the Global Commission report will help inform efforts in improving policies and programme on HIV and human rights in the Philippines in hopes of achieving the country’s goal of halting and reversing the spread of HIV and AIDS.