MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Health (DOH) seeks to give out condoms in school nationwide starting next year, DOH Secretary Paulyn Jean B. Rosell-Ubial said in a press conference on Thursday.
The health department is eyeing to distribute condoms to school clinics in an effort to thwart the spread of HIV/AIDS, a sexually transmitted disease that affects all genders and ages, even the preteen population.
“The youngest recorded HIV patient in the country is 11 years old,” Rosell-Ubial said.
According to Rosell-Ubial, recent studies show that more Filipinos at younger age are engaging in sexual activities.
A study conducted by the Epidemiology Bureau of the DOH says that there are 38,114 reported cases of HIV in the country from January 1984 to October 2016. 7,756 of the total cases are reported just in 2016. In average, there were 26 new HIV infections every day of the year.
The reported cases this year is also much higher than in 2008 where an average of only 1 new HIV case per day was reported, proving that HIV cases in the Philippines is spreading faster and broader.
The study also says that 19,578 of the total reported HIV cases belong to individuals aged 25-34 years old while 10,279 cases are among the youth aged 15-24 years old.
Rosell-Ubial said that distribution of condoms in school clinics will begin as soon as the DOH finishes its discussion with the Department of Education.
Students and teachers will also be given counseling services in preparation of condom distribution.
Rosell-Ubial said that the DOH is not encouraging students to use condoms and that the condoms DOH seeks to distribute should be used only for emergency and for protection.
“This is a nontraditional outlet for safe sex interventions, but we have to do this,” Rosell-Ubial was quoted as saying in an Inquirer.net report.
The Health Secretary also stressed the importance of sex education to youths and children. She advised parents to be factual and frank concerning the matters of sex.
“As soon as the child asks you a question, be honest, say it outright. (Don’t) talk about the bees and the birds,” Rosell-Ubial said in the same report.
“Be factual. Don’t beat around the bush. Don’t even use analogy. Just go straight to the point. I think that has been proven in other many countries that that’s the way to inform the youth,” she added.
Aiza Seguerra, singer and National Youth Commission (NYC) chairperson, also encouraged parents to provide children with right information regarding sex.
“Correct information starts at home,” Seguerra said.
NYC, together with DepEd, is DOH’s partner in distributing condoms in school clinics.
“We’ll go down to the community, to the households, involving the parents, the education sector, the teachers, the whole community,” Rosell-Ubial said.
The Catholic Church on HIV/AIDS
Amidst the rising toll of HIV cases in the country, an official from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) called for awareness on HIV/AIDS.
“This is a day for us to increase our knowledge, awareness, consciousness [about HIV/AIDS], especially because of the youth affected now by this global problem of HIV and AIDS,” Fr. Dan Cancino, executive secretary of CBCP’s Commission on Health Care was quoted as saying in a CBCP News report.
Cancino said that the prevalence of HIV/AIDS is “a cause for alarm.”
“Most of those affected are our youth. Cases are rising among the 15 to 24-year olds. So they are the future of our country, our high school and college students,” he added.
In line of spreading awareness on HIV/AIDS, the Catholic Church encouraged the public to take part in the National Catholic AIDS Sunday on Dec. 4.