Philippine Health Department To Promote Condom Use in Fight Against HIV/AIDS Despite Opposition From Catholic Church
Despite opposition from the Roman Catholic Church, the Philippine Department of Health will support the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in addition to encouraging education on the topic and promoting measures to guard against sexually transmitted infections, the Philippine Star reports. Health Undersecretary Mario Villaverde at the second Asia Pacific Regional Meeting on universal access to HIV prevention in Manila, Philippines, said, "The use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS is different from their use for birth control," adding, "The church's position is detrimental to public health" (Crisostomo, Philippine Star, 8/29).
According to Villaverde, "We cannot really prevent people, regardless of their religious belief, from engaging in high-risk behavior, and so we must educate them and we must provide some preventive and control measures for them" (Alave/ Bordadora, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 8/28). Villaverde added, "Generally, the approach of the DOH in terms of HIV prevention is really through education and advocacy. Awareness and behavioral change are important." Villaverde did not say how condoms would be promoted in the country, where all forms of contraception are opposed by the church, according to the Star (Philippine Star, 8/29). The Catholic Church has been campaigning against the use of government funds for and universal access to contraception, the Daily Inquirer reports.
Although the Philippines is considered a low-prevalence country, with less than 0.1% of the population testing positive for HIV, the number of HIV-positive people continues to grow. DOH data indicate that the number of recorded HIV/AIDS cases rose to an average of 29 per month in 2007, up from 20 cases monthly in past years. Estimates place the number of HIV/AIDS cases recorded between 1984 and 2007 at 3,061, but DOH and the World Health Organization say the actual figure could be higher. In 2007, the agencies estimated that there could be 7,490 people living with HIV/AIDS in the Philippines, up from the 6,000 estimated in 2002. According to DOH, the spread of the disease primarily is through sexual transmission, and condom use among the most at-risk population is below target (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 8/28).