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Slice of Life
Thursday, June 21, 2012
I was watching the late night news about the increase in the number of HIV and AIDS in the country and on the lack of reportage about it. Compared to cases such as tuberculosis, malaria and dengue, the attention on HIV AIDS is too nil, said the report.
Individuals are not fully aware about HIV and AIDS, its transmission and prevention. The observation would also go for almost all health concerns where information are still centered on the medical community and maybe, among few health advocates.
These leave a large number of people unable to prevent on their own level. Officials from the Department of Health admitted that a larger number of the public needs to be educated on HIV and AIDS prevention. It may also require looking into the usual practices that puts individuals on the disadvantage.
Studies show that traditional and oftentimes unequal social gender roles are largely responsible for the continued spread of HIV. Women often have difficulty negotiating safer sex with their partners because of their lower social status, economic dependence on men, and fear of violence.
Also, young women and girls are often the target of older men in search of "safe" sexual partners, including men who believe the myth that sex with a virgin will cure their HIV infection.
Responding to the HIV and AIDS pandemic will depend on improving women's social and economic status, increasing men's responsibility for HIV prevention and care and enabling the public, especially the youth, to become more aware on its prevention.
There is no other way but to invest in public health and education to ensure that individuals, couples and families are able to make informed choices and decide appropriately for themselves. In many communities, strengthening information includes raising the awareness on how the human immunodeficiency virus is transmitted and how to prevent its infection, including demystifying myths and misconceptions.
In March alone, the health department reported 313 Filipinos who have acquired the virus. It is 82 percent more compared to last year and the highest ever recorded on a monthly basis since 1984. The HIV / AIDS registry shows that sexual contact remains as the number one mode of transmission with 280 individuals engaging from the activity.
Homosexual contact resulted to 143 new cases followed by bisexual contact with 89 and heterosexual contact with 48.
Despite this glaring increase, there is an absence of a national policy on Reproductive Health (RH) which can help educate and inform the public about HIV and AIDS. The national policy would also lay down the framework in responding to the epidemic.
The Reproductive Health bill will make reproductive health education mandatory in schools; require local governments to have emergency obstetric care and maternal death reviews, as well as provide mobile health services. It will also ensure that government provides adequate resources towards health education and HIV prevention, care and support.
An increasing number of those who are infected are young professional, debunking the notion that only sex workers, injecting drug users of gays are infected with HIV and AIDS. This means anyone is vulnerable, and needs information especially those who think that they cannot be infected.
Timely interventions are an absolute necessity.
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Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on June 21, 2012.