ucanews.com reporter, Manila
Updated: January 11, 2019 04:51 AM GMT
Since 2012, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines has been actively involved in a HIV/AIDs awareness campaign. (Photo by Mark Saludes)
Protestant churches in the Philippines have welcomed a new government policy that makes health services for people with HIV/AIDs more accessible.
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines described the new law as "a great step forward towards recognition of the sanctity of life, especially among those who battle HIV and AIDS."
Carleen Nomorosa, program coordinator of the council, said Christian communities have to get involved in the awareness campaign and implementation of the new law.
"We are part of the ministry and advocacy to raise the level of public awareness about HIV and AIDS, our health, and our rights to social services," said Nomorosa.
In 2012, the Protestant fellowship launched its HIV-AIDS program aimed at "making church people more aware of the issue" and to "build a compassionate community" to help people living with HIV and AIDS.
The presidential palace this week announced that President Rodrigo Duterte had signed a law that will establish a program to provide free and accessible treatment and medication to all persons living with HIV and AIDS.
The law also allows minors between 15 and 17 years of age to give their own consent for having an HIV test. Any person below 15 years old who is pregnant, married, or displays high-risk behavior should be considered a mature minor and be allowed to give their own consent for HIV testing.
The law strengthens policies to fight discrimination towards those living with HIV and AIDS. For instance, it mandates HIV and AIDS education in the workplace.
The passage of the law came in the wake of reports that show the Philippines had the fastest HIV/AIDS infection rate in Asia-Pacific from 2010 to 2016.
New HIV cases more than doubled from 4,300 in 2010 to 10,500 in 2016, according to a UNAIDS report on global HIV epidemic states.
While the global trend in HIV infections is declining, the Philippines is one of only nine countries in the world that recorded a more than 25 percent increase.
The Philippines' Department of Health recorded a total of 11,103 cases in 2017, up from the 9,264 cases reported in 2016.