MANILA, Philippines – A family woke up to the blaze of fire engulfing their tiny hut in a remote village near Olongapo City. their neighbors allegedly colluded to torch their house amid fears of getting infected by HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) that one of the members of the family had carried. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome).
Nelia Sevidal, executive director of the non-government organization Lunduyan Para sa Pagpapalaganap at Pagtatanggol ng Karapatang Pambata, Inc., says the incident took place years after the enactment of the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998 (also known as Republic Act No. 8504).
She says the arson episode is a clear manifestation that despite the law that aims to protect the rights of known and suspected HIV-infected persons, discrimination and stigma continue to haunt them and their family. And this is primarily the reason why AIDS prevalence in the Philippines, “though growing, is hidden.”