Condoms one way PH can stop AIDS, says UN

Published by rudy Date posted on April 11, 2011

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines needs to “translate into action” its Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of reversing the spread of Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV-AIDS) by 2015, a United Nations coordinator said.

Without “re-energized action” such as promoting condoms, the country faces some 10,000 new HIV infections a year, warned Teresita Marie Bagasao, country coordinator of the United Nations Program on HIV-AIDS (UNAIDS).

This would entail treatment costs of about P300 million a year or more than triple the current Department of Health budget for HIV-AIDS, she said.

To stem the spread of the fatal sexually transmitted disease and meet its international commitments in this regard, the Philippines would need to muster the political will to promote the use of condoms and provide safe-sex education to the population.

Among the Philippines’ MDGs is the reduction of the spread of the HIV virus by 50 percent. Aside from its sexual transmission, HIV can also be passed through blood transfusions and the use of injectable illegal drugs.

On March 31, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon reported that “the world is beginning to reverse the spread of HIV and that investments in the response to HIV are finally paying off,” noted Bagasao.

The UN leader disclosed that between 2001 and 2009, the rate of new HIV infections in 33 countries—including 22 in sub-Saharan Africa—fell by at least 25 percent. By the end of 2010, more than 6 million infected people in low- and middle-income countries worldwide were on antiretroviral treatment.

The Philippines, however, was one of only seven nations in the world which bucked the trend, reporting increases of over 25 percent in new HIV infections between 2001 and 2009.

The UN chief cited weak national infrastructure, financing shortfalls and discrimination against vulnerable populations as factors that continue to impede access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services.

Bagasao pointed out that the Philippine campaign against HIV-AIDS “has long been underfunded.”

The country had obtained more than $25 million in grants from the Global Fund to boost its not-so-successful campaign to halt the spread of the dreaded disease but this is still inadequate.

“Enabling policies and a clear stand of the government on some concerns, like the condom issue, that will have impact on the epidemic must be in place. Commodities must be able and universal access to them must be achieved,” she said. –Jerry E. Esplanada, Philippine Daily Inquirer

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