The new law—Republic Act 11166 – takes effect on Jan. 25 and gives the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) the fresh mandate to provide care and support for migrant workers living with HIV, according to ACTS-OFW Rep. Aniceto Bertiz III.
“Under Section 37 of the new law, the OWWA, together with other agencies, is duty-bound to develop a program to provide a stigma-free comprehensive reintegration, care, and support program, including economic, social, and medical support for OFWs with HIV, regardless of employment status and stage in the migration process,” Bertiz said.
“Section 17 of the new law also requires all overseas-bound Filipino workers as well as Philippine government staff for foreign posting to undergo a seminar on the causes, manner of prevention, and impact of HIV and AIDS, prior to certification for deployment or assignment,” Bertiz said.
“The mandatory preventive education seminar is to be provided for free and at no cost to OFWs or to the staff concerned,” Bertiz said.
A total of 856 OFWs were newly diagnosed with HIV from January to November 2018.
The figures brought to 6,179 the cumulative number of OFWs found living with HIV since the government began passive surveillance in 1984.
All told, Bertiz OFWs with HIV now account for 10 percent of the 61,152 confirmed cases in the National HIV/AIDS Registry.
Of the 6,179 OFWs in the registry, he said 5,317, or 86 percent, were male with the median age of 32 years.
Majority of the male cases, or 72 percent, were infected through sexual contact among MSM, or men who have sex with men (2,203 from male-to-male sex and 1,607 from sex with both males and females).
The median age of the 862 female OFWs in the registry is 34 years.
HIV causes AIDS, or the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, which destroys the human body’s natural ability to fight off all kinds of infections. The condition still does not have any known cure.