Tuesday, November 30, 2010

124 donated blood units found HIV positive—party-list lawmaker

INQUIRER.net First Posted 13:27:00 11/28/2010 Filed Under: Health, Diseases, Government

MANILA, Philippines—At least 124 units of donated blood were found HIV positive in the 10 months to October this year, a member of Congress disclosed over the weekend.

Citing a Department of Health report, LPGMA (Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers’ Association) Party-list Representative Arnel Ty said the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine confirmed that the donated blood units were HIV positive.

In a news release, Ty said the report was based on information from the National Voluntary Blood Safety Program, which monitors the purity of donated blood.

The tainted blood units did not necessarily come from 124 donors since one contributor can give more than one unit, according to Ty.

Ty joined other members of Congress in welcoming Pope Benedict XVI's recent remarks endorsing the use of condoms in the fight against AIDS.

"We expect the Pope's sentiment to figure prominently in House deliberations on the reproductive health bill," he said.

Ty said the discovery of the contaminated blood units did not pose any threat to public health, as these were filtered out precisely due to existing safeguards.
"Nonetheless, the increasing number of diseased blood units found betrays the menacing spread of HIV in the country," he said.

Ty said the 124 donated blood units found HIV positive from January to October already surpassed the 89 similarly infected units detected in the 12 months of 2009. In the whole of 2008, he said 74 donated blood units were found HIV positive, more than double the 30 similarly contaminated units retrieved in 2007.

Ty said the National HIV & AIDS Registry "has made it very clear that donors of the HIV positive blood units may or may not be in its record."

The registry lists a total of 5,729 diagnosed cases as of end October, although the actual number is believed to be much higher.

Ty pointed out that HIV surveillance system remains passive because compulsory testing is unlawful under the 1998 AIDS Prevention and Control Act.

Section 16 of the law states: "Compulsory HIV testing as a precondition to employment, admission to educational institution, the exercise of freedom of abode, entry or continued stay in the country or the right to travel, the provision of medical service or any other kind of service or the continued enjoyment of said undertaking shall be deemed unlawful."

The law fully protects the human rights and civil liberties of persons suspected or known to be infected with HIV.

Ty said diseased blood units are nonetheless getting detected because under the law, legal consent to HIV testing is considered having been given when a person volunteers or freely agrees to donate blood, organ, or tissue for transfusion, transplantation, or research.

News Source: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/news/breakingnews/view/20101128-305790/124-donated-blood-units-found-HIV-positiveparty-list-lawmaker

Photo source: http://donser.com

Friday, November 26, 2010

World AIDS Day: Light for Rights

December 1 is World AIDS Day (WAD), an annual event that raises awareness about the global epidemic of HIV and AIDS.

Each year, informative and educational events are held worldwide. Candlelight vigils, concerts, letter writing campaigns, marches and more will take place all over the world. In fact, events will be held on every continent.

Different “themes” and campaign slogans are used. The theme for 2010 is “Light for Rights”, a campaign that focuses on human rights and HIV by encouraging people around the world to dim their lights in remembrance of the devastating effects AIDS has on the world.

Turning the lights back on will help keep the light on human rights and HIV.

Reference: http://www.examiner.com/holidays-in-national/world-aids-day-2010-wad-events-resources-and-tools

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Vatican: Condom use less evil than spreading HIV

By VICTOR L. SIMPSON and NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press Victor L. Simpson And Nicole Winfield, Associated Press

VATICAN CITY – In a seismic shift on one of the most profound — and profoundly contentious — Roman Catholic teachings, the Vatican said Tuesday that condoms are the lesser of two evils when used to curb the spread of AIDS, even if their use prevents a pregnancy.

The position was an acknowledgment that the church's long-held anti-birth control stance against condoms doesn't justify putting lives at risk.

"This is a game-changer," declared the Rev. James Martin, a prominent Jesuit writer and editor.

The new stance was staked out as the Vatican explained Pope Benedict XVI's comments on condoms and HIV in a book that came out Tuesday based on his interview with a German journalist.

The Vatican still holds that condom use is immoral and that church doctrine forbidding artificial birth control remains unchanged. Still, the reassessment on condom use to help prevent disease carries profound significance, particularly in Africa where AIDS is rampant.

"By acknowledging that condoms help prevent the spread of HIV between people in sexual relationships, the pope has completely changed the Catholic discussion on condoms," said Martin, a liberal-leaning author of several books about spirituality and Catholic teaching.

The development came on a day when UNAIDS officials announced that the number of new HIV cases has fallen significantly — thanks to condom use — and a U.S. medical journal published a study showing that a daily pill could help prevent spread of the virus among gay men.

"This is a great day in the fight against AIDS ... a major milestone," said Mitchell Warren, head of the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition.

Theologians have debated for years whether it could be morally acceptable for HIV-infected people to use condoms to avoid infecting their partners. The Vatican years ago was reportedly preparing a document on the subject, but it never came out.

The groundbreaking shift, coming as it does from the deeply conservative pontiff, would appear likely to restrain any public criticism from Catholic conservatives, who insisted Tuesday that the pope was merely reaffirming the church's moral teaching.

Conservatives have feared that a comment like this would give support to Catholics who want to challenge the church's ban on artificial contraception in an environment where they feel they are under siege from a secular, anti-Catholic culture.

George Weigel, a conservative Catholic writer, said the Vatican was by no means endorsing condom use as a method of contraception or a means of AIDS prevention.

"This is admittedly a difficult distinction to grasp," he told The Associated Press in an e-mail. What the pontiff is saying is "that someone determined to do something wrong may be showing a glimmer of moral common sense by not doing that wrong thing in the worst possible way — which is not an endorsement of anything."

Benedict's comments come at a time when bishops in the United States are intensely focused on upholding the strictest views of Catholic orthodoxy, emphasizing traditional marriage, natural family planning based on a woman's menstrual cycle and making abortion the most important issue.

In the book, "Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times," Benedict was quoted as saying that condom use by people such as male prostitutes indicated they were moving toward a more moral and responsible sexuality by aiming to protect their partner from a deadly infection.

His comments implied that he was referring primarily to homosexual sex, when condoms aren't being used as a form of contraception.

However, questions arose immediately about the pope's intent because the Italian translation of the book used the feminine for prostitute, whereas the original German used the masculine.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, told reporters Tuesday that he asked the pope whether he intended his comments to apply only to men. Benedict replied that it really didn't matter, the important thing was that the person took into consideration the life of another.

"I personally asked the pope if there was a serious, important problem in the choice of the masculine over the feminine," Lombardi said. "He told me no. The problem is this: ... It's the first step of taking responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk of the life of another with whom you have a relationship."

"This is if you're a man, a woman, or a transsexual. ... The point is it's a first step of taking responsibility, of avoiding passing a grave risk onto another," Lombardi said.

Those comments concluded the press conference, and Lombardi took no further questions about how broadly this interpretation could be applied.

The clarification is significant.

UNAIDS estimates that 22.4 million people in Africa are infected with HIV, and that 54 percent — or 12.1 million — are women. Heterosexual transmission of HIV and multiple, heterosexual partners are believed to be the major cause of the high infection rates.

Benedict drew harsh criticism when, en route to Africa in 2009, he told reporters that the AIDS problem couldn't be resolved by distributing condoms. "On the contrary, it increases the problem," he said then.

In Africa on Tuesday, AIDS activists, clerics and ordinary Africans applauded the pope's revised comments.

"I say, hurrah for Pope Benedict," exclaimed Linda-Gail Bekker, chief executive of South Africa's Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation. She said the pope's statement may prompt many people to "adopt a simple lifestyle strategy to protect themselves."

In Sierra Leone, the director of the National AIDS Secretariat predicted condom use would now increase, lowering the number of new infections.

"Once the pope has made a pronouncement, his priests will be in the forefront in advocating for their perceived use of condoms," said the official, Dr. Brima Kargbo.

Lombardi said Benedict knew full well that his comments would provoke intense debate. Conservative Catholics have been trying to minimize what he said since excerpts were published this weekend in the Vatican newspaper.

The Rev. Tim Finnegan, a conservative British blogger, said he thought the pope's comments were unwise. "I'm sorry. I love the Holy Father very much; he is a deeply holy man and has done a great deal for the church," Finnegan said on his blog. "On this particular issue, I disagree with him."

Lombardi praised Benedict for his "courage" in confronting the problem.
"He did it because he believed that it was a serious, important question in the world of today," Lombardi said, adding that the pope wanted to give his perspective on the need for greater humanized, responsible sexuality.

Luigi Accatoli, a veteran Vatican journalist who was on the Vatican panel that launched the book, put it this way:
"He spoke with caution and courage of a pragmatic way through which missionaries and other ecclesial workers can help to defeat the pandemic of AIDS without approving, but also without excluding — in particular cases — the use of a condom," Accatoli said.

The launch of the book, which includes wide-ranging comments on subjects from the sex abuse crisis to Benedict's belief that popes should resign if physically unable to carry out their mission, drew a packed audience. Making a rare appearance, Benedict's secretary, Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, sat in the front row — an indication of the event's significance.

In the book, the pope reaffirms Vatican opposition to homosexual acts and artificial contraception, as well as the inviolability of marriage between man and woman.
But by broadening the condom comments to also apply to women, the pope was saying that condom use is a lesser evil than passing HIV onto a partner, even when pregnancy is possible.

"We're not just talking about an encounter between two men, which has little to do with procreation. We're now introducing relationships that could lead to childbirth," Martin said.

Individual bishops and theologians have applied the lesser evil theory to the condom-HIV issue, but it had previously been rejected at the highest levels of the Vatican, Martin said.

Monsignor Jacques Suaudeau, an expert on the Vatican's bioethics advisory board, said the pope was articulating the theological idea that there are degrees of evil.

"Contraception is not the worst evil. The church does not see it as good, but the church does not see it as the worst," he told the AP. "Abortion is far worse. Passing on HIV is criminal. That is absolute irresponsibility."

He said the pope broached the topic because questions about condoms and AIDS persisted, and the church's teaching hadn't been clear. There is no official Vatican policy about condoms and HIV, and Vatican officials in the past have insisted that condoms not only don't help fight HIV transmission but make it worse because it gives users a false sense of security.

"This pope gave this interview. He was not foolish. It was intentional," Suaudeau said. "He thought that this was a way of bringing up many questions. Why? Because it's true that the church sometimes has not been too clear."

Lombardi said the pope didn't use the technical terminology "lesser evil" in his comments because he wanted his words to be understood by the general public. Vatican officials, however, said that was what he meant.

"The contribution the pope wanted to give is not a technical discussion with scientific language on moral problems," Lombardi said. "This is not the job of a book of this type."
Associated Press reporters Rachel Zoll in New York, Jason Straziuso in Nairobi and AP Medical Writer Marilynn Marchione contributed to this report.

Church urged to soften stand on condom use

This is the cover of "Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Sign of the Times" by Pope Benedict XVI. In the book, which was to be released Nov. 23, the pope said the use of condoms may be a sign of moral responsibility in some specific situat ions when the intention is to reduce the risk of AIDS. (CNS)

The Star, Phlippines

MANILA, Philippines (Xinhua) - A government official called on the local Catholic Church Monday to follow the example of Pope Benedict XIV who had softened his stand on the use of condom in the fight against the spread of HIV-AIDS.

Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office head Ramon Carandang told reporters Monday, "I think our own clergy should be informed by the views of the Vatican because they've always referred to the Vatican when they stated their position. Now that the Vatican's position is such, then I think that should result in a corresponding flexibility on the part of our Church. The local Church cannot be more popish than the Pope."

He added that the use of condom and other forms of contraceptives is not as controversial in other parts of the world as it is in the Philippines.

Pope's position would also boost the Department of Health's earlier project of distributing free condom to the public as part of its anti-HIV-AIDS program, as well as the bid to pass the Reproductive Health bill, he said.

The Pope during an interview for the book "The Light of the World" had said that the use of condoms maybe justified to stop the spread of HIV-AIDS. He, however, acknowledged that it is not the only way to handle the spread of the HIV infection.

He also clarified that his comments does not weaken their stand against the general use of artificial contraceptives.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines said they prefer to waiting until the book is published this week but acknowledged that the Pope's comments focuses on the use of condoms as one of the tools to prevent the spread of HIV-AIDS and not as the main measure.

Abortion is illegal in the Philippines, but condoms and birth control pills are available despite church objections. Philippine church officials are against contraception which is banned by the constitution.

Like four out of five Filipinos, Aquino is a Catholic. But he supports the right to contraception in the country with an aim to slow the country's annual population growth of 2 percent.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lawmakers welcome Pope's stand on condom use vs AIDS fight


Both the oppositors and the advocates of the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill in the House of Representatives welcomed the statement of Pope Benedict XVI that condoms could be used to stop the spread of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), in certain cases.

In a text message to GMANews.TV, Paranaque Rep. Roilo Golez said the move of the Pope is to protect life and not to prevent it.

“It is only for male prostitutes with AIDS. Not like the pro-RH condoms which are meant to prevent life. The RH people cannot use this to promote condoms. The RH objective in promoting condom is primarily to prevent life, and secondarily to prevent infection," he said.

Golez is the author of House Bill 13 of the proposed Act Providing for the Safety and Protection of the Unborn Child which states that the unborn child, from the moment of conception onwards, should be protected.

Golez's bill said unborn children should be protected from all outside intervention that could be medically considered as abortive during the natural process of growth of the fertilized ovum. These include chemicals, surgical procedures, or abdominal massage.

The Church frowns on the use of condom as a family planning method because it interferes in the process of conception.

Pope: Condoms not a moral solution to AIDS

An Associated Press (AP) article on Sunday quoted the Pope as saying that condoms are not a moral solution to stopping AIDS but in some cases, such as for male prostitutes, their use could represent a first step in assuming moral responsibility "in the intention of reducing the risk of infection."

The Pope, however, also reiterated the Church's position that abstinence and marital fidelity are the only sure ways of preventing the spread of HIV.

The Pope made the statement in response to a German journalist's general question about Africa, where heterosexual HIV spread is rampant.

The Pope's comment will be published in a book entitled "Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times," which will be released on Tuesday.

The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano published excerpts of the interview on Saturday.

Tool for responsible choice

Bacolod City Rep. Anthony Golez said the Pope’s remark about condoms to lower the risk of transmission of HIV/AIDS is going to be welcomed by Catholics around the world.

“This is our way of contribution to humanity in our quest to protect and preserve life from this killer infection," he said in a text message.

"The (condom's) offer of protection is not absolute and must not be abused or mistaken as a ticket to promiscuity or for other ends, but rather its use can be a tool to be more responsible to the choices one makes," he added.

He added that as a Catholic doctor and public health practitioner, it would now be more conscionable to prescribe or teach to patients about the use of condoms to prevent or reduce risk of acquiring HIV/AIDS as a step towards a responsible use of human sexuality.

Repercussions on RH debates

Bagong Henerasyon Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy was happy that the Church is now open-minded and adjusting to what is necessary to the present time.

Golez and Herrera-Dy are co-authors of the HB 19.

Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara was surprised with the Pope’s statement as it is a change in the previous hard line policy of the Catholic Church.

“It will have repercussions on the current debates in Congress on reproductive health and responsible parenthood," he said.

Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan, for her part, said that although the reason given by the Pope leaves much to be desired “still it is a move towards a freer and more liberal outlook."

“The Pope’s declaration is an opening of the dark tunnel which can enlighten the Catholics and non-Catholics and lead the flock towards the light of understanding and acceptance of the realities of the times," she said.

She expressed hope that it will encourage people to weigh the advantages of a State policy and comprehensive RH bill.

“If the Pope is widening the tunnel leading to truth wider, then we should not be more popish than the pope. Then all can benefit from the light of change," she added.

Ilagan is one of the authors of the six RH bills pending in the House of Representatives.

Problem of sexually-transmitted diseases

Davao del Sur Rep. Marc Douglas Cagas IV expressed hope the Pope recognizes the problem of sexually transmitted diseases and overpopulation.

“We should pass the RH bill," he said.

CIBAC Rep. Sherwin Tugna sees the statement as a positive development as while it is only categorical, this goes to show that the leadership of the Catholic Church are closely studying and deliberating on the use of condoms as well as other forms of contraceptives.

Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone believed that the Catholic Church is now beginning to realize that the issue is not confined to population alone but also the health of the people.

“I hope our local Catholic Church will take notice of that radical statement of the pope to rethink their position on the issues of health and population," he said.

DIWA Rep. Emmeline Aglipay said she was quite surprised by the Pope’s statement but sees it as a very welcome sign of a more progressive Catholic Church.

“Responsible sexuality is an issue which a responsible Church should tackle head on. The Church’s role in social change and in taking part in solutions to prevalent social ills, such as the spread of HIV cannot be overemphasized," she said.

A question of exceptions

According to the AP article, Cardinal Elio Sgreccia, the Vatican's longtime top official on bioethics and sexuality, said the Pope's stand pertains only to cases where condom use "is the only way to save a life."

Quoting Sgreccia on the Italian news agency ANSA, the AP report said the Pope's stand on the condom issue was "in the realm of the exceptional."

"If Benedict XVI raised the question of exceptions, this exception must be accepted ... and it must be verified that this is the only way to save life. This must be demonstrated," Sgreccia said.

In the same AP report, Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans said the Pope was clearly not encouraging condom use.

"I think the pope has been very strong in saying condoms do not solve the problem of morality and do not solve the problem of good sex education. But if a person chooses not to follow the teaching of Christ in the church, they are at least obliged to prevent another person from contracting a disease that is deadly," he said.


AIDS (Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is a disease of the human immune system caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

The disease affects the immune system and leaves individuals susceptible to infections and tumors.

The virus is transmitted through direct contact of a mucous membrane or the bloodstream with an HIV-infected body fluid — blood, semen, vaginal fluid, preseminal fluid, and breast milk.

The virus can be transmitted through:
anal, vaginal or oral sex with HIV-infected persons);
blood transfusion (if the blood is positive for HIV);
the use of HIV-contaminated hypodermic needles;
exchange between an HIV-infected mother and her baby during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding;

or other exposure to one of the above bodily fluids.

AIDS is considered a pandemic or an epidemic affecting a large part of the population.

According to UNAIDS 2009 report, some 60 million people worldwide have been infected by the disease; some 25 million have died, and around 14 million children were orphaned in southern Africa alone since the epidemic began. – VVP
, GMANews.TV

Monday, November 22, 2010

PRESS STATEMENT: UNAIDS welcomes Pope Benedict's support to HIV prevention

GENEVA, 20 November 2010UNAIDS welcomes the reported statement of Pope Benedict XVI calling for “a humane way of living sexuality” and that the use of condoms are justified "in the intention of reducing the risk of HIV infection".

“This is a significant and positive step forward taken by the Vatican today,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé. “This move recognizes that responsible sexual behaviour and the use of condoms have important roles in HIV prevention.”

UNAIDS has worked closely with the Vatican, in 2009 Mr Sidibé held far-reaching discussions with Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski on HIV prevention issues including the prevention of mother-to-child transmission, protecting young people and reducing sexual violence against women and girls. “This will help accelerate the HIV prevention revolution, in promoting evidence-informed and human rights based approaches to achieve universal access goals towards HIV prevention, treatment, care and support,” said Mr Sidibé. “Together we can build a world with zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.”

With more than 7000 new HIV infections each day, UNAIDS advocates the use of a combination HIV prevention approach that utilizes all proven methods for HIV prevention including use of male and female condoms, choosing to have sex later, having fewer multiple partners, male circumcision, reducing stigma and discrimination, and the removal of punitive laws. The male latex condom is the single, most efficient, available technology to reduce the sexual transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections

Friday, November 19, 2010

Jake Cuenca Shines in New Indie Film About HIV/AIDS

By Anya Santos
Manila Bulletin

MANILA, Philippines - Mainstream actor Jake Cuenca has proven he has the acting chops in his participation in Neal Tan’s indie movie “H.I.V. (Si Heide, Si Ivy at Si V).”

Tan, together with producer Donna M. Sanchez, was the force behind the Rafael Rosell starrer, “Tulak,” an advocacy movie Tan also directed, which centered on the ill effects of using and pushing drugs. “H.I.V.” on the other hand, is another advocacy movie about HIV and AIDS in the Philippines.

Cuenca reportedly immediately snatched the opportunity to be in the movie as soon as he got the script.

"Ito ang kauna-unahang indie movie na ginawa ni Jake Cuenca, and according to him, marami siyang natutunan sa paggawa ng indie," Tan tells PEP via email. "Hindi na daw pera ang pinag-uusapan dito, at na-feel daw niya na wala nang mas mahalaga pa kaysa makagawa ng isang makabuluhang pelikula," Tan continued.

He also commended Cuenca for his willingness to go deeper as an actor, which ispired Cuenca in turn to value his profession more. Cuenca also reportedly told his director that this movie had been the most challenging of his career so far.

According to Tan, he saw Cuenca’s efforts during production, saying his actor would always come to the set early and ready for his scenes. Comparing this work ethic to Fanny Serrano’s, with whom he also worked in another indie movie, “Tarima,” Tan also told PEP, "Tulad ni Fanny Serrano, isa sa mga dakilang artistang nagbibigay ng inspirasyon sa mga tulad kong direktor upang mas pagbutihin pa ang kanilang trabaho, dahilan upang makagawa ng isang matatawag na obra."

Aside from Cuenca on a major role, “H.I.V.” also stars Iza Calzado, Candy Pangilinan, IC Mendoza, at Precious Lara. Support cast includes Will Devaugn, Jao Mapa, Mara Lopez, Azenith Briones, Orestes Ojeda, Abby Cruz, Liz Alindogan, Jess Sanchez and Rustica Carpio.

The script reportedly came together during a screening for “Tulak” in Bacolod. According to Tan, the school officials brought to his attention the need to inform students about the killer disease, most of whom had no clue what it is. Since then, Sanchez and Tan were able to touch base with Wanggo Gallaga, the son of director Peque Gallaga. The younger Gallaga, who is a wirter and editor at Chalk magazine, is said to be HIV-positive and he has helped complete the script, PEP reported.

As per Tan, their target playdate for “H.I.V.” is December, on World AIDS Day itself.

Source: http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/276996/jake-cuenca-shines-new-indie-film-about-hivaids