THOSE who advocate making condoms easily available to the public cite the need to arrest the rise of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) cases in the country. They’re right. HIV cases have been on the up at an alarming rate during the last six years.
In Cebu, for example, only two to three HIV cases were reported per month in 2010. Five years later, the figures rose to between 30 to 40. Last year, we had 70 to 80 new patients every month seeking treatment for the virus.
The figures, which were given by a source at the Department of Health, are frightening. At this exponential rate, we should have at least 640 new HIV cases every month or 7,680 in one year, before the turn of the decade. I repeat this is in Cebu alone and it covers only those cases that are reported. You can imagine how many people afflicted with the virus have chosen and will continue to choose to keep silent about their condition to avoid being ostracized.
Little wonder the DOH has aggressively endorsed the use of condoms when having sex, even proposing before the start of the school year to distribute the contraceptive in school. The idea was, however, rejected by the Department of Education.
But just how effective is the condom in preventing the spread of HIV? Ninety percent of the patients are males, according to my source, and they got it from having sex with another male, in one case 10 males, one after the other.
They’re getting younger, too. Three years ago, most of those who contacted HIV were between 25 to 34 years of age. Last year, the age range was 15 to 24. And most worrisome of all, they have had good education and therefore knew the risk that they were taking when they engaged in unprotected sex.
Our attention has been focused mostly on the war on drugs, and rightly so, but we have to address the problem of HIV infection, too, before it runs completely out of control.
I heard this story many years ago from a friend, who served in the Navy after he graduated from the Philippine Military Academy. During one of their class reunions, the discussion veered towards their financial status and one of their classmates, an Army man, revealed that the modest house he started building a year ago had remained unfinished because he ran out of funds.
The confession drew a mock rebuke from another classmate who was also in the Army. “Ikaw kasi, akala mo PC ka samantalang Army lang kayo.”
The PC, of course, was the old Philippine Constabulary, the fourth and decidedly most unpopular branch of the Armed Forces until it was disbanded. It was particularly notorious during martial law when it was used as the dictator’s tool in silencing his political enemies.
And they’re considering reviving the PC? Please spare us, oh Lord.