OFWs Decry Proposed Mandatory AIDS Test

An alliance of overseas Filipino workers decried the proposed mandatory Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) test for OFWs. They said that OFWs are now singled out as ‘AIDS-carriers.’

BY Bulatlat.com
Volume VIII, Number 31, September 7-13, 2008

“From Psych test to AIDS test, what else?” asked the largest alliance of overseas Filipino workers organizations based in the Middle East in reaction to the proposed mandatory AIDS test for OFWs put forward by Senator Pia Cayetano.

John Leonard Monterona, regional coordinator of Migrante Middle East, said, “It seems that OFWs are now the target of seemingly endless burdens imposed by the government. Now, OFWs are discriminately singled out as “AIDS-carriers” when in fact anybody who went abroad, not only OFWs, could be a possible AIDS-carrier, too.

Migrante ME said the report that concluded that a ‘huge chunk of (HIV) cases come from OFWs’ should be thoroughly and carefully re-studied.

Migrante’s Monterona said that mandatory AIDS test is unreasonable and may impinge on the basic right of individuals such as its freedom of choice in relation to being subjected to the AIDS test.

“Mandatory AIDS test is unreasonable because in the first place the Arroyo administration failed to implement a comprehensive HIV/AIDS awareness program. You can’t force someone to do what he is not aware of in the first place,” Monterona said.

Republic Act No. 8504 known as Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998 states that compulsory HIV testing shall be considered unlawful.

“Sen. Pia Cayetano is right on her keen observation on the growing numbers of HIV cases in the country. It is due to the failure of the Arroyo administration through the Department of Health (DOH) under its administrative power to develop the needed HIV/AIDS awareness campaign or relevant program to address this concern despite the 2005 reports by the Philippine National AIDS Council on the increasing numbers of HIV and AIDS cases in the Philippines,” Monterona said.

Migrante-ME also warned that if the mandatory AIDS test is implemented and will charge OFWs the required fees, OFWs and families will protest because it is an additional burden to OFWs.

The group said the government should instead start a massive awareness campaign program on HIV/AIDS. Monterona said that a voluntary and free-of-charge AIDS test could be included in the awareness campaign program. (Bulatlat.com)

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