MANILA, Philippines – There's no shame in getting tested.
To raise awareness on HIV prevention, 3 members of the House of Representatives underwent free HIV testing and counseling at a mobile clinic parked at the House of Representatives on Monday, December 2.
World AIDS Day was celebrated on Sunday, December 1.
Representatives Teddy Brawner Baguilat Jr (Ifugao), Barry Gutierrez (Akbayan), and Lani Mercado-Revilla (Cavite) said they did this to highlight the importance of voluntary testing.
"What we did today is an attempt to show that there should be no stigma attached to HIV testing, to HIV treatment, to the spread and dissemination of HIV-related information and education," Gutierrez said. "We hope to take the crucial first steps towards preventing any further increase and hopefully to get us back on track on dealing with HIV."
The Philippines has bucked the global decline in HIV cases. Although new cases of HIV infections around the world dropped by more than 50% from 2001 to 2011, a 2012 UNAIDS report found that HIV incidents in the country increased by more than 25% in 2011.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health (DOH) reported 491 new cases of HIV cases in October, the highest number recorded in one month since 1984.
In 2013, HIV cases in the country breached the 15,000 mark with a total of 15,774 cases reported since 1984.
The biggest roadblock to curbing HIV in the Philippines is AIDS-related discrimination, Baguilat said.
Testing and counseling sessions will be done in private; the entire process will be kept confidential. Those who will be tested may even choose not to use their real name, Baguilat said.
Results of free HIV tests in public healthcare centers are usually available within the day. Those who will test positive are advised to take a subsequent confirmatory test, which could take several weeks.
Will other congressmen and congresswomen also take the test?
Well, it's not compulsory.
"We also want to highlight voluntary testing and counseling," Baguilat said. "It's about instilling anti-stigma and anti-discrimination for persons infected with HIV/AIDS."