THE government is using $8 million from the $19-million Global Fund grant to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria to buy condoms from the United Nations, Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral said Sunday.
“If it’s from the UN, a condom costs only P1.50 to P2, but if we are going to get it from commercial sources, it will cost P7 up to P10,” Cabral told a health forum sponsored by the Philippine College of Physicians.
She said the Health Department had P63 million last year to help prevent the spread of AIDS, but it had so far spent nothing to buy condoms.
“We are still using funds from the international aid agency called the Global Fund whose biggest donor is Bill Gates [to buy condoms],” Cabral said.
Catholic bishops slammed Cabral and asked President Gloria Arroyo to sack her after she distributed condoms in Sampaloc, Manila, on Valentine’s Day eve, saying she was immoral, but Cabral said they could not stop her from campaigning to prevent AIDS.
She said the Philippines committed to buying condoms and to launching a program to fight HIV-AIDS when it accepted the Global Fund grant.
“The consistent and correct use of condoms is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of HIV, which could lead to full-blown AIDS,” Cabral said.
Did she still receive communion despite her quarrel with the bishops?
“I receive communion when there is occasion to receive communion, but when there is no occasion to receive communion, I don’t lose sleep over [it],” she said.
The opposition to condoms had affected the government’s drive against AIDS and had led to a significant rise in HIV cases, Cabral said.
Edsel Salvana, a consultant at the Sagip HIV/AIDS clinic at the Philippine General Hospital, said 90 percent of all HIV cases were sexually transmitted.
“If condoms were being promoted adequately, we would not be experiencing rising HIV cases,” he said.
Figures showed that HIV cases worldwide declined by 17 percent from 2001 to 2010, but the number of cases in the Philippines rose 334 percent in the same period and by 400 percent in 2009, when 835 cases were recorded, Salvana said. The number of HIV cases here could reach more than 25,000 by 2019.
“If the doubling rate [of HIV cases] continues, we will have 1,600 cases by 2011, 3,200 cases by 2013, 6,400 cases by 2015, and 25,000 cases by 2019,” Salvana said.
By: Macon Ramos Araneta, Manila Standard