Lack of condom use contributes to rising HIV infections in PH
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines remains a hotbed of HIV infection, with reported cases rising partly due to a lack of condom use and also partly due to insufficient sex education.
In May 2017 alone, the Department of Health (DOH) recorded 1,098 new cases of HIV infections in the Philippines, the highest number of cases since 1984.
Despite health campaigns, reported HIV infections in the country increased by 140% in the past 6 years, currently the 'fastest growing' and most severe in the Asia Pacific region.
The HIV epidemic is an uphill battle not just for the government, but also for persons living with the virus as they face dehumanizing stigma and discrimination. (READ: ‘Stop HIV shaming’: When status is not the story)
In turn, the purchase and use of condoms has been continuously low despite its proven significance in preventing the infection. (READ: On preventing HIV/AIDS: Are you afraid of condoms?)
Condom use should be a priority
UNAIDS Philippines Director Louie Ocampo stated the 'desperately needed call to action' on condom use promotion as a key strategy to address Philippines' worsening HIV epidemic.
"Successive Philippine governments have failed miserably to propagate condom use and educate young Filipinos to avoid HIV transmission," said Carlos Conde of Human Rights Watch.
Conde also noted the government's 'lack of political will' to push effective sex education against the opposition of conservative leaders, particularly from the Catholic Church. (READ: Briones: No condom distribution in schools)
According to the DOH, two out of 3 new HIV infections are among 15- to 24-year-old men having sex with men or transgender women, with only a few fully aware of HIV, its symptoms, and treatment.
Human Rights Watch meanwhile asserted comprehensive sexuality education should be implemented as mandated by the RH Law.
"But unless the government takes the message of UNAIDS to heart and ensures that condom use and sexuality education is at the core of its HIV prevention strategy, the Philippines’ HIV epidemic is unlikely to abate," the group said. – With reports from Keb Cuevas/Rappler.com