Gay rights activists slam Aquino health programs

GAY rights activists joined the multitude of protests against President Aquino as he delivered his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) before Congress, driven by apprehensions over his health program priorities.

Along the Commonwealth Avenue, the Metropolitan Community Church of Quezon City (MCCQC) merged with the Peoples’s SONA, a multisectoral gathering of protesters opposing his economic and political policies that was blocked by thousands of police from getting near Congress grounds.

The head pastor of MCCQC, Rev. Ceejay Agbayani, expressed impatience over Aquino’s lame support for the Reproductive Health Bill and the rise of maternal deaths because of the lack of access of women to comprehensive and free health care.

Earlier in the day, members of the ProGay Metro Baguio and the Baguio Pride Network swooped down on the Baguio General Hospital seeking a halt to the rampaging government policy converting public hospitals into profit-oriented corporations and forcing the poor to shoulder rising treatment costs by becoming PhilHealth members.

Clyde Pumihic, ProGay-MB secretary general, cited issues raised from the State of the Philippine LGBT under Aquino (SOPLA), a political manifesto jointly issued by Lesbians for National Democracy and ProGay Philippines yearly to demystify SONA promises.

“Poor gay men and transgenders depend on hospitals like the BGH for affordable health care, and we fear that corporatizing and farming out medical procedures can only mean that a few years from now, we stop having access to free or affordable tests and treatments,” Pumihic said.

The SOPLA also decried the increasing frequency of police raids of gay men’s saunas in Metro Manila. Because of Congress’ refusal to pass the Antidiscrimination Law, police are emboldened to harass gay social clubs.

“The International AIDS Conference points out that violence from cops breeds stigma that pushes gay Filipinos into hiding, making them harder to reach for AIDS awareness,” Pumihic explained.

Rising medical care costs from privatized health care coupled with police harassment, ProGay said, are surefire ways to drive infection rates to new highs this year. The Philippine National AIDS Council revealed that new confirmed cases numbered 273 in May, a high majority traced to male to male sexual contact.

Four days earlier, the Babaylan association in the University of the Philippines campus in Los Banos held a gay pride march as a pre-SONA protest. The LGBT student group called for a marked budget upgrade for health care to P243 billion to buy needed drugs, raise salaries of nurses and health care workers. Prevention and treatment programs for HIV infections and AIDS complications must be supported with Pesos 14 billion, the group added.

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