Monday, February 22, 2010

DOH chief scores Church for blocking AIDS prevention effort

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo swears in Dr. Esperanza Cabral as Acting Secretary of the Department of Health (DOH) in a ceremony Tuesday (January 26) at Malacanang’s Aguinaldo State Dining Room. (PNA/NIB photo by D.Aguilar)V3/jme

GMA TV News, Philippines

The Catholic Church should share the blame for the government’s failure to stem the rising number of Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV-AIDS) infections in the country.

Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral made this claim on Thursday, saying that the Church is partially blocking government efforts to prevent HIV-AIDS by having people use condoms.

“Masasabi ko na bigo dahil di kumpleto ang ating programa dahil sa malaking pagtutol ng sektor ng simbahan sa third component sa prevention ng HIV-AIDS, at ito ang paggamit ng condom (I can say our program to prevent HIV-AIDS has failed because the Church is blocking the third component of our program, which is to encourage the use of condoms)," Cabral said in an interview on dzXL radio.

The Department of Health had launched a program known by the acronym ABC – where A is for “abstinence from sex", B for “be faithful to your partner" and C for “condom use" to combat HIV-AIDS.

On the other hand, the Catholic Church has been hitting the Health Department’s distribution of condoms last Valentine’s weekend, saying that the action might be misunderstood the government is advocating sexual licentiousness.

The DOH has stood by its decision on the matter. [See: DOH stands by free condoms campaign]

Cabral said that while condoms are not 100-percent foolproof, they help prevent the incidence of HIV-AIDS infection.

She also pointed out that aside from promoting the use of condoms, her department also prioritizes abstinence and being faithful.

“Di 100% foolproof pero ang risk mababawasan talaga. Ang pinaka-foolproof na paraan para di magkaroon ng STD, huwag makipagtalik maski kanino lalaki man o babae (Condoms are not 100 percent foolproof but they help lower the risk. But the most foolproof way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases is to avoid sex with multiple partners, whether with a man or woman)," she said.

Bad to worse
Late last January, University of the Philippines College of Medicine associate professor and Philippine General Hospital (PGH) Infectious Diseases Department head Dr. Edcel Salvana said the HIV-AIDS situation in the country has gone from bad to worse.

Salvana said there were only two HIV confirmed cases in the country in 1984, but the number jumped to 118 after 10 years.

He said that in 2004, confirmed HIV cases reached 199. In 2007 until October of 2009, the number has drastically gone up to 629, more than double the previous years’ recorded cases.

For 2009, Salvana said the Department of Health (DOH) recorded two HIV-AIDS cases daily.

He said there is a possibility that there are many more HIV-AIDS positive people who are not coming out in the open.

Victims of the deadly disease now include teenagers as young as 16 years old, young professionals, medical practitioners, lawyers and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Salvana said all confirmed cases were diagnosed to have acquired the disease through sex. Three-fourths of the victims were male while one-fourth was female.

HIV cases became more prevalent because of current male-to-male or gay-to-gay, lesbian-to-lesbian sexual contacts, with all those involved not using condoms during sexual encounters, she added.


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