The Reproductive Health Advocacy Network or RHAN lauds the initiative of DOH Sec. Esperanza Cabral to promote the use of condoms in response to the escalating numbers of Filipinos infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV, a disease that reached epidemic level in just one year.
There are 4,400 reported cases of HIV, but the DOH estimates that to be more like 40,000. “ The DOH calculation is that for every one case of HIV and AIDS that we have diagnosed, there are ten more that we have not diagnosed.” , Sec. Cabral said, adding that giving condoms was a way to remind the public of the need for responsible sexual behavior.
Before Cabral’s initiative, RHAN had expressed alarm over the continued denial of
the rapid rise in HIV infections by previous DOH chiefs and the ambivalence in implementing public health policy, such as the Millenium Development Goals or MDGs. Combatting HIV and AIDS is one of the MDGs that the Arroyo government has not sufficiently addressed.
With the alarming increase from 3000 in 2007 to 4400 in 2008, RHAN’s 43 member NGOs advocating for reproductive health and rights said that HIV and AIDS had already claimed so many lives before it could have one like DOH Secretary Cabral who was principled and courageous enough to take a firm stand against those opposing condom use.
The World Health Organization cited condom use as the most efficient means to prevent HIV and AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Infections, based on studies conducted worldwide.
In Asia, Thailand has waged a successful war against HIV and AIDS through aggressive legislation, widespread education and information, the manufacture of antiretrovirals thus making them affordable for the poor; and the care of people living with HIV /AIDS in public hospitals. From 410,406 cases 1994, there were only 27, 362 incidences of HIV/AIDS in Thailand by 1997.
According the UP Population Institute, 4 million youth aged 15-24 engage in premarital sex. Most practise unsafe sex. This is disadvantageous , especially, for young women who have unplanned pregnancies. They are forced to quit school and to marry early, resulting in more unplanned pregnancies; poverty and poor health.
“When people don’t have the right information, when they are not informed of their options regarding health care services, they are left high and dry, unable to make an informed choice.”, an RHAN spokesperson said.
Sec. Cabral vowed that the DOH would partner with NGOs, LGUs and other agencies so that people are given the proper information as well as access to the services they need, once they have made an informed choice.
As to the criticisms coming from Catholic bishops, saying her initiative was immoral, Sec Cabral said, that while the Church was the guardian of morality, the DOH is the guardian of the people’s health. “Those are two different things.”, Cabral emphasized.
Dr Junice Melgar, RHAN Secretary General and Executive Director of Likhaan Center for Women’s Health which runs clinics in poor barangays says that the DOH’s action to combat HIV and AIDS is part of the reproductive health services that help prevent or treat health concerns of women and men alike, especially young people. “ DOH Secretary Cabral is a paradigm of a truly committed public servant.”, Dr Melgar said. All the presidential candidates should really sit back and take notice of what bringing health to the people really means.” /ENDS
the DOH mandate to arm people with correct information and services so that they could protect themselves.
Catholic bishops have criticized Cabral’s plan to hand out condoms
NGOs dealing with women’s health and rights have been clamoring for