Sex education pushed to combat HIV surge

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Sunday, March 29, 2015


AMID the continued surge in the number of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) cases in the country, advocates are renewing calls for the adoption of appropriate sex education in schools.

In a recent media forum, people living with HIV (PLHIV) advocate Wanggo Gallaga said there is an immediate need for schools to include sex education modules in order to encourage those with risky sexual behaviors to practice safe sex.

"What we have to do is to educate people properly. It has to start earlier. When it comes to health, education is very shallow. Biology lang ang tinuturo sa schools e. We don’t talk about consequences of sex," said Gallaga.

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Doing so, he said, will allow individuals to learn by themselves on how to practice safe sex and, therefore, avoid acquiring HIV.

"People still don't want to do it (safe sex). We can't force them. We are still a free country. So we have to educate them and make them want to practice it," said Gallaga.

It can be recalled that the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has already pointed at the low condom use in the country as one of the main reasons for the "fast and furious" rise in HIV cases.

UNAIDS data showed that less than 40 percent of men-having-sex-with men (MSMs) use condoms while only 65 percent of sex workers (SWs) practice safe sex.

Both are lower than the target 80 percent condom use among most-at-risk population.

Gallaga said sexuality education is mandatory not only because of the Reproductive Health (RH) Law but also due to the fact that many parents are not open to such conversations with their children.

"Some parents do not want to discuss this with their children. They don't get the necessary information for themselves, not just on HIV/AIDS, but also other sexually-transmitted illnesses (STIs)," said the son of multi-awarded filmmaker Peque Gallaga.

"There are those that are making it a morality issue, but it is a health issue," added Gallaga.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is one of the organizations that are strongly against sex education.

In a related development, the Department of Health (DOH) disclosed that 91 individuals had recently acquired HIV after engaging in transactional sex.

Based on the January 2015 Philippine HIV and AIDS Registry report, there were 50 (55 percent) cases where the individual paid for sex; 33 (36 percent) among those who accepted payment for sex; and eight (9 percent) among those that engaged in both.

Eighty-three (91 percent) of the 91 cases involved males while the remaining eight were females.

Since October 2012 when the DOH began the official evaluation of people engaged in transactional sex, there have already been 1,701 recorded cases of HIV.

Of this number, a total of 940 (55 percent) acquired HIV after paying for sex; 505 (30 percent) after accepting payment for sex; while 256 (15 percent) are engaged in both.

A total of 1,617 or 95 percent of the aggregate total of HIV cases among people who engage in transactional sex were found to be males, while the remaining 84 were females. (Sunnex)

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