Media Release, Manila , November 22, 2010
“The problem with Filipino bishops and those who are against the RH bill including some anti-choice legislators is that they are more popish that the pope. Pope Benedict XVI has been quoted to say that using condoms may be justified to stop the spread of AIDS citing the examples of women in prostitution and their use of condoms. By justifying the use of condoms to fight the spread of HIV and AIDS, the pope is making a realistic stance to address the spread of deadly virus which can prevented by effective and consistent use of condoms and providing programs such as sex education to discuss vulner ab ilities to infection, prevention and treatment of HIV and AIDS. The Pope’s relaxed stance is an example of how religious morality should be in line with secular standards, public health and human rights,” said Attorney Clara Rita A. Padilla, Executive Director of EnGendeRights.
The HIV incidence in the Philippines is steadily growing. According to the National AIDS Registry data (passive surveillance), there has been sudden increases in reported HIV positive cases yearly since 2007 – 54% increase in 2008 compared to 2007 and 58% increase from 2008 to 2009.[i] At the start of 2010, there are already four new cases being reported every day compared to the two new cases reported daily in 2009.[ii] According to the projections of the National Epidemiology Center (NEC), by December 2010, there will be an additional 1,500 Filipinos newly-infected by HIV; by 2011, the newly infected will number 4,000 – 7,000.[iii]
Of the total 4,424 reported cases of HIV, 90% was infected through sexual contact. The Philippine National AIDS Council United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) 2010 Country Report cites sexual transmission as the most common mode of HIV transmission with 96% of reported infections in 2009. Of these sexual transmissions, 41.73% was from homosexual contact, 31.34 % from bisexual contact and 26.87% from heterosexual contact. [iv] From 1984 to March 2010, there are more men who are HIV infected than women at 74% men infected with the ratio of 3.5 men infected to 1 woman.[v]
The 2009 Integrated HIV Behavioral and Serologic Surveillance (IHBSS)[vi] showed an increase of HIV prevalence among most-at-risk populations (MARPs)[vii] from .08% in 2007 to .47% in 2009 (70 individuals among 14,976 MARPs)[viii] with the breakdown of incidence, as follows: men who have sex with men (MSM) at .30% (45 individuals), women in prostitution (WIP) at .15% (23 individuals; with increased incidence among freelance WIPs compared to registered WIPs at .39% incidence among all freelance WIPs and 13% incidence among all registered WIPs) and people who inject drugs (PWIDs) at .01% (2 individuals).[ix] In 2009, the MSMs[x] and PWIDs showed a dramatic rise in prevalence which could be explained by the previous IHBSS report showing low prevention coverage, low knowledge among MARPs and low condom use specifically among MSMs[xi] and PWIDs.[xii] The 2009 IHBSS showed some improvement in reach of prevention programs among MARPs especially WIPs, however, increase in knowledge of HIV did not result in an increase in condom use among WIPs and MSMs[xiii] from the previous report.[xiv]
A steady number of overseas contract workers (OCWs) also contract HIV outside the country and then infect their spouses or partners when they return to their homes. In 2009, 164 of returning OFWs were HIV infected.[xv] An alarming 35% of OFWs with HIV are seafarers with a corresponding increase in the number of wives of seafarers infected with HIV.[xvi]
As early as 2007, more and more young people were being infected with HIV.[xvii] The number of young women and men aged 15-24 who are HIV infected rose from 110 in 2008 (males= 102; females=8) to 218 in 2009 (males=201; females 17).[xviii]
Atty. Padilla added, “The Filipino bishops and the rest of the anti-choice groups should do intensive reflection on their stance against the RH bill and other issues related to sexual and reproductive health. In 2009, o ur HIV incidence in the Philippines had over 70% transmission through homosexual and bisexual contact. The lack of legal recognition of homosexual rights impacts their access to information and services that would otherwise curb the spread of HIV. Even the Catholic Church’s discriminatory stance on homosexuality should be examined since the lack of recognition of homosexual rights impact on the discrimination that homosexuals suffer in the Philippines.”
“The Filipino anti-choice groups are in the minority as has been shown in the surveys of the Filipino population who have long been clamoring for the passage of the RH bill. These minority anti-choice groups should not be allowed to further delay the passage of the RH bill into law. Our legislators should do what they are supposed to do and that is to pass the RH bill into law in the soonest possible time,” added Atty. Padilla.
“The executive branch of the government should actively implement the Magna Carta of Women which requires access to family planning methods and the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998 (Republic Act 8504) which requires HIV/AIDS education on transmission and prevention in local communities, in schools, health facilities, and workplaces which necessarily includes education on risky sexual behavior, safe sex and the use of male and female condoms to prevent transmission. The denial of access to modern contraceptive information, supplies, and services impact poor, rural, indigenous women, women in ARMM, adolescents, MSMs and transgenders disproportionately,” added Atty. Padilla.
In 2006, the Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee), the committee tasked to monitor the implementation in the Philippines of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), recommended to the Philippines to “to strengthen measures aimed at the prevention of unwanted pregnancies, including by making a comprehensive range of contraceptives more widely avail ab le and without any restriction and by increasing knowledge and awareness ab out family planning.”[xix]
The Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (CESCR Committee), the committee tasked to monitor the implementation in the Philippines of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Rights (ICESCR), expressed concern in its 2008 Concluding Observations on the Philippines on the “inadequate reproductive health services and information, the low rates of contraceptive use and the difficulties in obtaining access to artificial methods of contraception, which contribute to the high rates of teenage pregnancies and maternal deaths”[xx] in the country. The CESCR Committee urged it to”adopt all appropriate measures to protect the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls, inter alia, through measures to reduce maternal and infant mortality and to facilitate access to sexual and reproductive health services, including access to family planning, and information.”[xxi]
In its 2009 Concluding Observations on the Philippines, the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC Committee), the committee tasked to monitor the implementation in the Philippines of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), expressed serious concern on “the inadequate reproductive health services and information, the low rates of contraceptive use (36 per cent of women relied on modern family planning methods in 2006) and the difficulties in obtaining access to artificial methods of contraception, which contribute to the high rates of teenage pregnancies and maternal deaths.”[xxii]
[i] PNAC, UNGASS 2010 Country Report, page 7.
[ii] Tayag, Tracking HIV, Proceedings 1st HIV Summit: Call for Action and Broad-Based Responses to AIDS by Leaders, 2010 [hereafter Tayag, Tracking HIV] [iii] Tayag, Tracking HIV. Also according to Tayag – “All regions have reported at least one case in the last 25 years. Only eight of our provinces have yet to report their first case.”
[iv] PNAC UNGASS 2010 Country Report, page 14.
[v] Tayag, Tracking HIV.
[vi] The IHBSS measures behavioral risk factors through face-to-face surveys and HIV and Syphilis prevalence through blood testing, DOH conducts the IHBSS every two (2) years since 2005. The 2009 IHBSS is the 3rd round.
[vii] MARPS include MSMs, WIPs and PWIDs.
[viii] PNAC UNGASS 2010 Country Report, page 14, citing 2009 IHBSS.
[ix] PNAC UNGASS 2010 Country Report, page 13, citing 2009 IHBSS. .
[x] Used in this context to Include transgenders.
[xi] Used in this context to Include transgenders.
[xii] PNAC UNGASS 2010 Country Report, page 20.
[xiii] Used in this context to Include transgenders.
[xiv] PNAC UNGASS 2010 Country Report, page 20.
[xv] PNAC UNGASS 2010 Country Report, page 14. In 2007, 31% of newly-infected were OFWs.
[xvi] National Epidemiology Center, April 2006 Monthly Update, HIV/AIDS Registry, 2006, http://www.doh.gov.ph/NEC/hiv/april_2006.pdf (stating that out of the total cases of HIV, 17% are domestic helpers, 7% are entertainers and 6% are health workers).
[xvii] Proceedings of the National Dissemination Forum, 2008.
[xviii] 2008 & 2009 Philippine HIV & AIDS Registry.
[xix] August 25, 2006 Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women Concluding Comments on the Philippines , para. 28 [2006 CEDAW Committee Concluding Comments].
[xx] CESCR, Concluding Observations (2008) para. 31
[xxi] CESCR, Concluding Observations (2008) para. 31
[xxii] CRC, Concluding Observations (2009), para. 61.
Clara Rita “Claire” A. Padilla, JD
Executive Director, EnGendeRights, Inc.
Telefax: (+632) 3762578
Mobile Landline: (+632) 6645696
Email: [email protected]; [email protected]
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