WORLD AIDS DAY 2017 SPECIAL REPORT
The Philippines joined the rest of the world in observing the World AIDS Day last December 1, Friday. However, a recent development starkly illustrated just how far the country is from being a society that is accepting of people living with HIV.
Officers from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency or PDEA arrested eleven men in a high-end hotel in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City last November 26.
According to the authorities, the eleven were about to engage in PNP or “party and play” – a code word for having sex while using drugs. While arrests and killings have become all-too-common events under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, this particular episode riled up the LGBT community. This is because of the way PDEA and the national media handled it.
During a press conference last Monday, the PDEA administrators made it a point to mention the detainees’ complete names and their respective professions. They also emphasized that they were about to engage in a sex orgy. And as if the humiliation isn’t enough, the authorities added that one of those men are in fact HIV positive.
The group allegedly organized the event through a Twitter group, and their names and mugshots are now all over the Internet. The subsequent press reports, most notably by Interaksyon.com, picked up PDEA’s official narrative.
Lest it be misunderstood, the group’s lone legal offense is possession of illegal drugs. It’s not about engaging in a sex orgy. Being into sex does not necessarily mean you’re into drugs, and vice versa.
No matter what your views are about sex, you gotta admit that there is nothing inherently wrong in engaging in safe and consensual orgies. And so that is not the issue here. However, engaging in the trading of drugs is a totally different matter. These people do deserve to be apprehended for that.
Having said that, what exactly went wrong in this entire brouhaha?
Filipinos are used to having police officials present suspected criminals through press conferences. While it can be reasonably said that doing so violates their right to be presumed innocent, that already has become the norm here.
Nevertheless, it is wrong for PDEA to even mention that someone among the 11 detainees is HIV positive, even though they didn’t really identify the person. According to section 30 of RA 8504 or the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998, the identity and status of persons with HIV must be handled with confidentiality at all times.
The stereotype of LGBT people as drug addicts dates back to the 1970s. According to the United States-based legal advocacy group Southern Poverty Law Center, “the most frequently used secular argument made by anti-LGBT groups in that regard is that homosexuality is inherently unhealthy.”
Scientific studies have consistently proven that there is no correlation there. In his 2003 research funded by the US National Library of Medicine titled “Prejudice, Social Stress, and Mental Health in Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Populations: Conceptual Issues and Research Evidence,” Dr. Ilan Meyer of the University of California-Los Angeles argued that as a matter of fact, LGBT people are more likely to turn to drug dependency because of the stigma, prejudice, and discrimination that they experience when living in a hostile and stressful social environment.