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New law allows HIV test for minors without parental consent
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New law allows HIV test for minors without parental consent

January 12 ------ Minors aged 15 to 19 years will now be free to take Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) test even without the consent of their parents under Republic Act  11166 or the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act of 2018. According to a report by GMA News' Ivan Mayrina on “24 Oras”, the Health department sees this provision in the law as a crucial step in detecting HIV cases at the early stages, considering that the Philippines recorded 945 new HIV cases in November 2018 alone. Of this 945 new cases, at least 30 percent have victims aged 15 to 24 years old.

"Ang gusto kasi natin sa HIV [cases]...we detect them early. 'Yung wala pang complications, ['yung] wala pang symptoms ma-treat na para 'yung kalusugan ng pasyente ma-maintain natin,” Undersecretary Enrico Domingo of the Department of Health said. The Health department defines HIV as a viral infection that attacks and slowly destroys the immune system of the infected person that leads to “immunodeficiency”. Likewise, the Health department describes HIV as “progressive and can lead to lack of body defense to all kinds of infection including those that don’t normally infect man and can also lead to cancer susceptibility.”

AIDS, on the other hand, is defined as the appearance of clinical manifestation of HIV infection wherein a “person presents with opportunistic infections of unlimited extents and possibilities and a atypical presentation and severity.” According to DOH, a person sick with AIDS is very infectious, very ill and prone to aggressive kinds of cancer. “Dati kasi, nakakatakot kasi parang akala nila death sentence or parang hindi siya pinag-uusapan. I think it's time to get it out into the open for everybody to talk about it sa community, sa mga families...[we need to] make testing and treatment available to everybody,” Domingo said.

Domingo also said that the law will pave the way for the DOH's establishment of a comprehensive HIV aids awareness and prevention program. "Sa education natin saka 'yung counseling, magkakaroon na rin tayo ng parents, ng teachers. And in the workplaces, all employers are required to give regular education on HIV sa mga empleyado nila,” Domingo added. Domingo said that the first step to getting tested is undergoing counseling, not only for the prospective patient but also for the prospective patient's partner, relatives and the community.

A blood sample will be taken from the prospective patient, just like a blood test, to determine if the prospective patient is reactive or HIV positive. A confirmatory test will be done by a separate machine. The process will take 10 days before the results are released and sent to prospective patients via courier service. As of Thursday, January 10, the country has only one national reference laboratory which can confirm cases of suspected HIV located in the state-run San Lazaro hospital in Sta. Cruz, Manila. Hundreds of blood samples are being sent to San Lazaro hospital's national reference laboratory on a daily basis.

There have been 61,000 cases of HIV in the country from January 1984 to November 2018. Of this number, 3,000 died of AIDS. In 2018 alone, an average of 32 new cases on a daily basis has been recorded in the country. In addition, nine in every 10 people who are HIV positive are male. Based on government records, the highest incidence of HIV infection is among those male having sex with male.  Getting tested for HIV virus and the antiretroviral drugs for those persons living with HIV are already free, and this will be the same case under the new law.

Source: gmanetwork.com