Thursday, May 26, 2016

Identities of HIV-positive persons must remain confidential -- Albay AIDS Council
By Connie B. Destura

LEGAZPI CITY, May 25 (PNA) -- An official of the Albay Aids Council (AAC) has appealed to the public to understand and respect the rights of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)-positive persons.

Miguel Dela Rama, AAC spokesperson, said the AAC has been continuously informing the public about issues on HIV through seminar and training of health personnel, persons with HIV, media and community leaders but they cannot reveal the names and locations of HIV-positive patients in Albay as what some curious individuals want the AAC to do.

The AAC provides information and education communication to the public about HIV and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), he said.

"This is HIV-AIDS 101 or basic information on what the disease is, what the modes of transmission are, how to prevent it and what the services of concerned agencies are," Dela Rama added.

Again, he said, one can only acquire the virus through penetrative unprotected sexual intercourse, blood transfusion and breast milk, if the mother is positive.

"If you are faithful to your partner, then there is no risk," the AAC spokesperson said.

Dela Rama disclosed that from 1984 to 2016, there have been 124 HIV cases reported in the province of Albay.

The AAC also educates the community on how to deal with persons with HIV but not to warn the public about the existence an HIV person in a certain community.

"It is not the right approach. Instead we need to inform the community that HIV can be prevented and easy to prevent. It is acquired, not hereditary, Dela Rama explained.

Article VI of Republic Act 8504, otherwise known as the “Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998” states that the medical confidentiality shall be strictly observed in the handling of all medical information, particularly the identity and status of persons with HIV.

However, in the following instances the exceptions to the mandate of confidentiality shall not be considered breached: (a) when complying with reportorial requirements in conjunction with the AIDSWATCH programs provided in Sec. 27 of this Act; (b) when informing other health workers directly involved or about to be involved in the treatment or care of a person with HIV/AIDS: Provided, That such treatment or care carry the risk of HIV transmission: Provided, further, That such workers shall be obliged to maintain the shared medical confidentiality; (c) when responding to a subpoena duces tecum and subpoena ad testificandum issued by a court with jurisdiction over a legal proceeding where the main issue is the HIV status of an individual.

The law also provides that results of HIV/AIDS testing shall be confidential and shall be released; the person who submitted himself/herself to such test; either parent of a minor child who has been tested; a legal guardian in the case of insane persons or orphans; a person authorized to receive such results.

Any violation of medical confidentiality shall suffer the penalty of imprisonment for six months to four years, RA8504 said.

"Our office is mandated to follow this law and its implementation.

"Persons with HIV are monitored by our office because they receive regularly their anti-retroviral drugs/ medicine from the HIV-AIDS Core Team," Dela Rama said.

Persons living with HIV, he said, are fully aware of the infection prior to the voluntary HIV test; meaning to say, they are given HIV counseling before they submit themselves for an HIV test.

After the result, the patient will again undergo of post-counseling, which includes information about HIV and important details on how to undergo the treatment as well as where to coordinate and avail of other services.

Dela Rama said tuberculosis is much more contagious than HIV.

"You can acquire TB easy thru saliva, sharing of foods or utensils of a TB patient but in HIV, you can only be infected through unprotected sexual intercourse (multiple partner), blood transfusion of an contaminated blood -- meaning with HIV, breastfeeding or mother to child transmission," he said.

The AAC official lamented the stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV due to low knowledge of the community, adding that the problem lies not in the persons with HIV but in the few who know less about HIV.

"If we name names and the identity and location of the HIV-positive persons in our province, we are not just committing sins but we are killing them little by little by not giving them the right to live. The stigma and the discrimination of the society is more contagious than the virus of HIV," Dela Rama said.

In Albay, the HIV testing facilities are in Bicol Regional Teaching and Training Hospital, Daraga Social Hygene Clinic and Tabaco Social Hygiene Clinic. In Naga City, one may go to the Social Hygiene Clinic or Bicol Medical Center. (PNA) LAP/FGS/CBD