Reacting on the recent reports released by GAMCA, an association of 17 medical clinics conducting medical check-up through the ‘referral decking system’ for OFWs bound to Gulf Cooperating Council (GCC) countries, on the rising cases of OFWs infected with HIV and AIDS, an alliance of Filipino migrants rights group in the Middle East today said that the report was released with a motive and hidden agenda, that is to raise alarm in order to influence the new Aquino government to implement compulsory AIDS test for all Mid-east bound OFWs.
“HIV/AIDS is a global phenomenon, and a concern of governments around the world; but it is totally misleading and unfair to equate that the country’s rising numbers of HIV and AIDS cases came from the OFWs especially those going and/or coming from the Middle East,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator.
Monterona said GAMCA’s 21 recorded cases of OFWs who have possibly been infected with HIV and/or AIDS from January to June of this year is in fact only represent a very small percentage to the huge numbers of deployed OFWs in the
“We recognize the need for the government to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS infections in the country, but to single out OFWs as HIV/AIDS carrier is unpleasant and at most foul!,” Monterona exclaimed.
Monterona, however, said GAMCA’s report must carefully and thoroughly be studied.
“There might be an increase on the numbers of HIV and AIDS infections in the country, but attributing it to OFWs as AIDS carriers is sweeping and unfounded,” Monterona added.
Monterona said the increase of HIV and AIDS cases could be attributed on the failure of previous administrations through the Health department 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.
“Since 2005, the issue of increasing numbers of HIV and AIDS infections has already been raised; now GAMCA is re-cycling this issue to justify the need for all Mid-east bound OFWs to undergo compulsory AIDS test,” Monterona averred.
Monterona questions GAMCA’s motive for releasing its report as it is tainted with self-serving motive and hidden agenda.
“If GAMCA, which most member-clinics are still practicing the “referral decking system”, would later recommend and lobby to the Aquino government the compulsory implementation of AIDS test for OFWs, then we’ll be ready to rally our ranks and protest against it,” Monterona warned.
Migrante’s Monterona said that mandatory AIDS test is unreasonable and may impinge the basic right of individuals such as its freedom of choice in relation to subjecting to the AIDS test.
“Mandatory AIDS test is unreasonable because in the first place previous administrations failed to implement a comprehensive HIV/AIDS awareness program. You can’t force someone to do what he is not aware in the first place,” Monterona averred.
Monterona also warned that if the mandatory AIDS test is implemented, thus charge OFWs the required fees, OFWs and families will protest because it is only an additional burden to OFWs in time of soaring prices of commodities and economic crisis.
“OFWs and their families will vow to protest against it,” Monterona declared.
Monterona, however, suggested that it is better for the government to start massive awareness campaign program on HIV/AIDS so that the public may know.
“As to requiring AIDS test to be compulsory and charging OFWs an additional fee, for sure this will face a strong opposition from OFWs and their families. Instead, voluntary and free-of-charge AIDS test could be good to be included in the awareness campaign program,” Monterona ended.