Quantcast
Connect with us

Condom ban fuels HIV rise in the Philippines

Published

on

Gay sex in a conservative Catholic society where the influential church forbids the use of condoms is fuelling an alarming rise of HIV infections in the Philippines, experts warn.

The Southeast Asian country is facing a HIV epidemic, with sex between men making up nearly 90 percent of all new cases, according to the health department and the United Nations’ Development Programme (UNDP).

Ten new infections are being detected every day, three times the rate of just a few years ago, the UNDP said.

Although the total of 9,669 confirmed cases is relatively small in a population of nearly 100 million people, authorities acknowledge many more cases likely remain undetected and point to the concerning upward trend.

The Philippines is one of only seven countries globally where HIV cases have risen by 25 percent or more since 2001, according to the UNDP.

“This is a worrying explosion of HIV cases marked by a shift in the way the virus is transmitted,” Philip Castro, the UNDP’s HIV/AIDS programme officer in the Philippines, told AFP.

ADVERTISEMENT

He said 87 percent of new infections were attributed to unprotected men-to-men sex (MSM), in a country where condom use overall is one of the lowest in Asia.

“What’s more alarming is that more than 60 percent of (those engaging in) MSM had reported having unsafe sex in their last contact,” Castro said.

Lack of public education about HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, as well as the shame of living with the disease, also prevent many from acknowledging infections and seeking help, health experts said.

They lay a lot of the blame on the powerful Catholic Church, of which 80 percent of the population are followers, for spreading a conservative message they say has led to a lack of understanding and tolerance about condoms.

ADVERTISEMENT

Unprotected sex remains extremely common in the gay community, according to Humphrey Gorriceta, who contracted HIV after having unprotected sex with multiple male partners.

The 37-year-old former art gallery manager is now campaigning to raise public awareness about the dangers of unsafe sex and help other people infected with HIV.

“I know a lot of people living with HIV that are not allowed to go to school, to attend church services and gain access to certain health services,” he told AFP.

“HIV is like the modern leprosy, except it is hidden.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Gorriceta said two friends who were diagnosed with HIV committed suicide recently due to depression.

“I helped the police take down one of them from hanging on the ceiling,” he said.

Gorriceta, one of only three men who have publicly come out about their disease, said he believed the number of people with HIV was higher than the official tally.

“Not all the people who are supposed to be tested get tested, and many of them are not properly aware of condom use,” said Gorriceta, who is studying for a masters degree in public health.

ADVERTISEMENT

And while nearly all the new HIV cases in the Philippines are being detected among the gay community, prominent safe sex campaigner and columnist Ana Santos warned other sectors of the community were also in danger.

She said there were cases of bisexual men who contracted HIV after having gay sex, then unknowingly transmitted the disease to their girlfriends or wives.

“They were having sex with other men or transgenders and were also having sex with their partners,” she said. “These are things that are not openly talked about so we do not have a complete understanding of this phenomenon.”

“Our society is very conservative, people are not open to talking about sex much less about men having sex with men.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Santos also said religious edicts had influenced society so that sexually active people often did not buy condoms or contraceptives because of shame.

Condoms are sold in drug stores at about a dollar a piece, but this is beyond the reach of the masses in a country where a third of the population live on less than that amount each day.

And with the church pressuring politicians, a 15-year campaign for parliament to pass a reproductive health bill that would require government to give free condoms to the poor has failed.

The bill would also require that sex education be taught in schools.

ADVERTISEMENT

Experts point to a long-running education, medical check-up and condom give-away programme that has curbed the spread of HIV among the sex worker community as proof that such methods work.

“Based on our assessment, limiting HIV/AIDS among female sex workers has been a relative success,” UNDP’s Castro said.

The church insists, though, that monogamous partners in responsible relationships is the key to stopping the spread of HIV.

“The reproductive health bill or any law for that matter, would not address rising HIV prevalence,” said Melvin Castro, head of the church’s episcopal commission on family and life.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Change of attitude and lifestyle will.”

[Condom in back pocket via Shutterstock]

Report typos and corrections to [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Progressive reformer claims victory in fiercely-contested Queens DA race

Published

on

Progressive reformer Tiffany Cabán has declared victory in her campaign versus Melinda Katz in the Queens District Attorney race.

With 99% of precincts reporting, Cabán held a lead of 1,090 votes, The New York Times reports.

Cabán was backed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Katz was backed by Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), who chairs the Queens Democratic Party, and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY)

https://twitter.com/CabanForQueens/status/1143721257353076737

https://twitter.com/CabanForQueens/status/1143721448168710151

Continue Reading

2020 Election

New 2020 poll shows Trump trailing all Democrats — some by double-digits

Published

on

President Donald Trump trails all of his Democratic rivals in hypothetical matchups of the 2020 presidential race, according to the result of a new poll released Tuesday.

This article originally appeared on Salon.

The survey, conducted by Emerson Polling, found that the president lags behind former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., by 10 points nationally — 45 percent to 55 percent. He also trails Sen. Elizabeth Warren by six points — 47 percent to 53 percent —and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg by four points — 48 percent to 52 percent.

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

Beto O’Rourke’s ‘war tax’ policy proposal is straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’

Published

on

Amid an overcrowded Democratic presidential candidate field, it's hard to distinguish yourself from the pack if you don't slot easily into the scale that runs from "pro-corporate centrist" to "left-populist." If you're former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke —  who falls somewhere in the middle, politically, and somewhere towards the top, looks-wise — you pull a militaristic policy proposal out of your hat that recalls some of the most campy pseudo-fascist sci-fi ever written.

Continue Reading
 
 

Copyright © 2019 Raw Story Media, Inc. PO Box 21050, Washington, D.C. 20009 | Masthead | Privacy Policy | For corrections or concerns, please email [email protected]

 ENOUGH IS ENOUGH 

Trump endorses killing journalists, like Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Online ad networks are now targeting sites that cover acts of violence against dissidents, LGBTQ people and people of color.

Learn how you can help.
close-link