MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Health (DOH) and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) may have opposing views on the use of condoms, but they agree on other ways to prevent the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) in the country.
Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral and CBCP-National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace (NASSA) HIV programs coordinator Josephine Ignacio, who were panelists in yesterday’s third forum before the April 12 National HIV Summit 2010, approved of other ways to combat HIV/AIDS.
Cabral and Ignacio stressed that there are other factors that they can discuss to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
“From here, we realize that there are common points we can work on without compromising the teachings of the Catholic Church. To tackle the HIV pandemic we need a multi-sectoral approach – government, church and civil society; and we call on the media to keep in mind (their) significant role in uniting these efforts rather than engaging in the topics that divide,” Ignacio said.
She added the HIV/AIDS situation in the country requires them to “look forward rather than backward.”
“The call for a summit is for us to sit down and talk, collaborate between the CBCP-NASSA and the government,” she said.
Ignacio mentioned that instead of dwelling on the condom issue, they should work together and promote awareness of the deadly disease that until now has no cure. “Condom is a small iota of the problem. Poverty is the issue.”
Asked if this means the DOH would stop handing out condoms, Cabral answered no.
She said her department would continue distributing condoms to hygiene clinics, those who engage in men-to-men sexual intercourse, and spouses of indigent HIV victims.
But Ignacio reminded the government not to encourage promiscuous behavior and teach the public to be responsible with their actions and be faithful to their partners.
She said Filipinos should abide by the Church’s teachings to lead orderly lives and called on gay people not to be promiscuous.
Cabral said the “emphasis is what we can cooperate on and not on the things that divide us.”
Gov’t should prepare
Meanwhile, international group Global Funds said it would only pay for the cost of medicine of people living with HIV/AIDS until 2012 and the government should now make preparations to cover the cost of the medicine after that.
Cabral said faith-based groups have an important role to play because they are in charge of molding the behavior of society and individuals.
“They should look for strength from the moral fiber of individuals and societies,” she added.
“Once they have succeeded in reducing the number of those infected with the serious communicable diseases, this would mean less cost for the country because they would no longer have to buy medicine,” she said.
Ignacio said “to label the Church as hostile to the efforts in combating the virus is doing a great disservice to hundreds of thousands of nuns, priests, brothers and other members of the Church who are the silent workforce behind this exceptional response to the pandemic. With the work we have at hand, we do not have the luxury of time to indulge in polemical discussions on condoms.”
By working together the DOH and the Church hope to mitigate the economic impact of the epidemic on the Filipino family, she said.
Cabral said the 5.4 percent of the Global Fund is being accessed by faith-based organizations, including the Catholic Church, and with their meager funds they need to tie up with the government.
Others panelists at the forum were Philippine National Aids Council’s Dr. Susan Gregorio, Social Welfare Undersecretary Cecilia Yangco, Church of God International (Ang Dating Daan’s) representative Jun Soriano and Pinoy Plus president Jericho Paterno. – Evelyn Macairan
From The Philippine Star