Philippines sex stance in focus as Aids cases rise

20-Dec-2016 Intellasia | AP | 6:00 AM Print This Post

SEX remains the elephant in the bedroom for many Filipino households.

And for health officials, avoiding the topic is alarming, amid the growing number of young Filipinos infected by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or afflicted by the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (Aids).

During the World Aids Day commemoration on December 1, Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial admitted there are a growing number of persons in the country struggling with HIV/Aids, based on the statistics gathered by the Department of Health (DOH).

“We cannot deny that [statistics],” Ubial said, as she and the World Health Organization (WHO) were one in calling on parents to help educate children on safe sex.

The HIV/Aids and Anti-Retroviral Therapy Registry of the Philippines (HARP) showed that from January to October this year, 7,756 new HIV/Aids cases were reported. This figure brings the total number of reported cases to 38,114 from 1984 to 2016.

More than half of the affected individuals recorded this year (19,578) belong to the 25-year-old to 34-year-old age group, while 28 percent (10,279) were aged 15 years old to 24 years old.

The National Capital Region (NCR) has the most number of reported cases at 1,275 (41 percent). Region 4A follows the NCR with 294 (9 percent) cases, Region 7 with 277 (9 percent) and Region 11 with 181 (6 percent). About 617 cases, or 20 percent of the reported cases, represented the other regions.

Birds, bees

THE first case of HIV infection in the Philippines was reported in 1984, a HARP report said. From January 1984 to February 2016, there has been 31,911 HIV Ab sero-positive cases reported to the HARP, according to the DOH.

According to health officials’ report, 92 percent (29,425) of the reported cases for the past 32 years involved males.

“From January 1984 to February 2016, MSM [males who have sex with males] was the predominant [23,828, or 81 percent] mode of transmission among males, followed by male-female sex [3,931, or 13 percent] and sharing of infected needles [1,325, or 4 percent].”

To address the problem about the rising number of HIV/Aids cases involving the youth, Ubial said the information campaign must go down to the household and community level.

“As soon as the child asks you a question, be honest, say it outright, [don't] talk about the bees and the birds,” she said.

“You talk to the child as if you’re discussing any topic under the sun. Be factual, huwag nang paligoy-ligoy at ‘wag na yung analogy,” Ubial said. “I think that has been proven in other many countries that that’s the way to inform the youth.”

While the DOH promotes abstinence among youths, the reality that risky practice, such as unprotected sex is prevalent cannot be escaped and must be addressed.

“One of the things that we did not want to happen is an increase in suicide rate. Or an increase in the threshold or an increase in hiding…because of positive results,” Ubial explained.

Condoms, schools

AS one of the preventive measures to fight HIV/Aids, the DOH plans to distribute condoms in school.

The Department of Education (DepEd) however, is not keen to the idea.

“While the [DepEd] recognises the need to promptly address the surging spread of HIV/Aids among the youth, the [DepEd] will have to hold thorough and careful discussions with the [DOH] regarding the health agency’s plan to distribute condoms in schools next year,” Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis-Briones said.

She added that through the series of discourse, the DepEd will want to “identify and study whether this move to arrest the epidemic is appropriate to cover schools and learning institutions and, if not, what are other measures that we can explore without compromising, first, the parents’ right and responsibility to educate their children against the dangers of engaging in premarital sex.”

Second, Briones noted the State’s mandate to protect minors from any form of abuse.

The DepEd will also have to look into how and why, despite progressive mindset in other countries, this approach is not implemented by all, according to the former National Treasurer.

“The DepEd, for its part, continues to uphold the values rooted in the country’s culture and how these remain relevant amid the changing times, and to enrich sex education within the frameworks of human rights, safety and well-being of learners through age-appropriate and developmental reproductive health education as early as Grade 1,” Briones said.

For her part, United Nations Aids (Unaids) Country Coordinator Teresita Marie Bagasao said there is a need to address the realities on HIV/Aids.

“Sex is happening and we cannot deny it. Therefore, rather than hide behind those figures, we need to address the realities, as well as the negative consequences of unprotected sex, which would include HIV infection,” Bagasao said.

World Health Organization (WHO) Representative Gundo Weiler echoed Bagasao’s sentiments by saying, “It is important to redouble our efforts in supporting the communities [in] their prevention efforts and to their right to protect themselves.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has issue a strong call to “recommit, together, to realising our vision of a world free of Aids.”

Although there is something to take pride to 35 years since the emergence of Aids, Ban said that the international community should continue to focus and achieve the goal to end the epidemic by 2030.


RADIO Veritas President Anton Pascual said that instead of condoms, it is better to introduce the “ABC” to fight HIV/Aids.

The Catholic priest said the ABC stands for: “[A] Abstinence from sex outside marriage, [B] being faithful to one another when married and C, conversion of heart to the value of love and sacredness of sex as a gift of God in marriage.”

The “ABC,” according to Pascual, was proven effective in Africa wherein one male or female dies every 10 seconds, despite the 2.3 billion condoms that were distributed from 1998.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on Health Care (CBCP-ECHC) has expressed alarm over the increasing number of cases of HIV/AIDs infections.

Fr. Dan Cancino, a physician and the executive secretary of CBCP-ECHC, even dubbed it as “Youth epidemic” and called out all sectors to join together and help fight to stop the spread of HIV in the country.

Cancico also appealed to the government, non-governmental organisations, private sector and the Church to unite to fight against HIV and to end the Aids epidemic to save the future generation.

He cited that among the reasons HIV is acquired is because of premarital sex and lack of knowledge about the dreaded disease.


Category: Health

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