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LGBTs want DOH's Ona to resign for anti-gay AIDS pronouncements

By PROGAY Philippines
December 2, 2011

MANILA  –  Human rights activists recoiled in horror at homophobic remarks made by Department of Health Secretary Enrique Ona before an AIDS convention and demanded his resignation from office for discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender populations who are part of the country's priority populations for HIV prevention.

Speaking before the Plenary Meeting of the Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC) at the Manila Grand Opera Hotel, Ona suggested the gathered AIDS prevention workers that parents should reign their homosexual children and get them tested. He was immediately met with angry hoots and whistles from AIDS activists.

"We want Ona ousted. Bigots do not deserve high government posts, and more so he should not serve as a chair of PNAC if we do not want his unscientific biases to taint the good work of our unsung AIDS preventions heroes nationwide," said Marlon Lacsamana, the founder of the Philippines LGBT Hate Crime Watch, a human rights watchdog.

"We're wasting our hard-earned taxpayers' money on homophobes as he is undoing decades of evidence-based prevention practices that aim to encourage homosexuals and transgenders to voluntarily seek testing, counseling, and treatment. Ona's words will drive LGBTs away from HIV programs and make us so vulnerable to infections," Lacsamana said.

Oscar Atadero, human rights officer of the Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines (ProGay) stated that it was very regrettable that Ona uttered his remarks when the World AIDS Day theme this year is about “Getting to Zero.”  The global call by the United Nations for Zero New HIV Infections is designed to ensure that most at risk populations (MARPs) get much improved access to treatment for all.

"Instead of achieving zero deaths, suggesting that gays, bisexuals and transgenders get tested en masse will achieve zero access, zero treatment and zero saved lives. It feels like gays, bisexuals and transgender being given a marching order to file into gas ovens in Europe during the time of Hitler," Atadero said.

The Philippines remain one the countries with punitive anti-gay laws, such as the Anti-Vagrancy Law, and rampant violence against LGBTs inflicted by police and village security forces. The UN point out that these anti-LGBT policies prevent homosexuals, transgenders, and their partners from accessing life-saving information and treatment.