DOH promotes use of condoms against HIV

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This article was first published on Philippine Star by Paolo Romero

“Only six percent of those who engage in sex use condoms as a form of contraception, which is one of the reasons why cases of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections in the country continue to rise,” said Department of Health Secretary Enrique Ona.

Ona said around 15 percent of Filipinos who engage in sexual intercourse take contraceptive pills while a smaller percentage resort to tubal ligation and intrauterine device as modes of contraception.

“We are focused more on condoms (in reproductive health and family programs),” Ona told reporters after hurdling deliberations on the proposed P40.13-billion budget of the Department of Health for 2013 at the House of Representatives last week.

“When actually condom to me is very important in the control of HIV-AIDS, maybe more important than contraception,” the health chief said.

He reiterated that 80 percent of HIV cases that are being detected are caused by transmission through male-to-male sex.

HIV causes the deadly Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), which does not have any known cure. However, anti-retroviral treatments can slow down the ailment.

Earlier, LPG-MA party-list Rep. Arnel Ty said a total of 278 new HIV cases were diagnosed in the country in July, up 36 percent compared to the 204 reported in the same month of 2011.

Citing National Epidemiology Center statistics, Ty said the new infections brought to 1,878 the cumulative number of new HIV cases discovered in the seven months to July.

He said the Philippine HIV and AIDS Registry, which began passive surveillance of the disease in 1984, now lists an aggregate of 10,242 cases, including 1,078 with full-blown AIDS.

Ty is one of the five authors of House Bill 5312, which seeks to renew the country’s outmoded, 14-year-old AIDS Prevention and Control Law.

He said the House committee on health has already initially approved the bill, which is now pending with the chamber’s committee on appropriations.

The bill proposes to earmark an extra P400 million to launch a forceful new program to suppress the disease that is being spread in the country largely via sexual contact, predominantly male-to-male sex.

Ty said the July cases included 36 overseas Filipino workers who all acquired the virus through sexual encounters, and 16 drug users who were all infected after they shared tainted needles.

He said last month’s cases – 265 males and 13 females – had a median age of 27 years, with those in the 20 to 29 age-group comprising 58 percent.

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