MANILA, Philippines – National Youth Commission Chairperson Aiza Seguerra wants Filipinos as young as 15 years old to be able to get tested for HIV even without parental consent.
"Sa batas ngayon, if you’re under 18, you can’t get tested na wala pong parental consent and we all know how hard it is ‘di ba?" said Seguerra on Tuesday, February 14, during a Palace news briefing.
(In the law today, if you're under 18, you can't get tested if you don't have parental consent, and we all know how hard it is, right?)
"That’s why actually we’re pushing also to lower it down, the age of testing and the provision of RH (reproductive health) services," he said, in a mix of English and Filipino.
The HIV/AIDS Prevention Law prohibits anyone below 18 years from getting an HIV anti-body test without parental consent. But statistics show that more and more people younger than 18 are becoming sexually-active and thus vulnerable to contracting HIV/AIDS. (READ: HIV and teen pregnancy: A national youth crisis)
The requirement of obtaining parental consent often discourages those younger than 18 from getting tested for the fatal virus, thus keeping them in the dark about their condition and preventing them from seeking treatment.
"It's so hard to ask our parents for a night out, what more if you tell your parents, 'Ma, Pa, I'm sexually active.' 'Ma, Pa, I might have HIV, please go with me.' So, it's very hard," said Seguerra.
Lowering the age of getting tested without parental consent will require Congress to amend the HIV/AIDS Prevention Law. In the previous Congress, this was one of the proposed measures of the late Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago.
Under Seguerra, the NYC is focusing on a campaign to address the HIV/AIDS crisis among the youth in the Philippines.
The 'face' of crisis
Seguerra said the youth has become the "face" of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country.
Out of the 28 Filipinos who get infected, 24 to 26 are youths, the NYC chief said. Some 62% of new infections occur among youths aged 15 to 24 years old, while 85% are among 15- to 30-year-olds.
"Twenty-four young Filipinos get infected every day," said Seguerra.
The NYC encourages young Filipinos to get tested for HIV/AIDS and hopes their parents too can support their children in this.
"Hopefully, more people get tested. Hopefully, more parents accompany their kids when they get tested," Seguerra said.
The NYC believes the first battle in addressing the country's looming HIV crisis head-on is to confront the stigma associated with the virus and encourage ways for the youth, parents, schools, and society as whole to discuss the issue more openly.
The commission, through its campaign "Usap Tayo Caravan" (Let's Talk Caravan) aims to do exactly this.
The caravan proposes ways for parents, teachers, and youths to broach sensitive topics like sex, drugs, HIV/AIDS, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender), and mental health.
"If we can encourage one child to speak, to open up, if we can influence one parent to listen first before reacting, to understand instead of being angry, iyon po ang goal natin (that is our goal)," said Seguerra.
The NYC is also getting celebrities to influence the youth by debunking "myths" about HIV/AIDS. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.