MANILA -- Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral on Wednesday asked the Catholic Church hierarchy to refrain from “word war” but instead focus in finding a solution "acceptable to all" in order to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in the country.

In a press briefing on the role of social welfare and faith-based groups on HIV/AIDS response, Cabral said she was happy to note that religious groups, especially the Catholic Church, showed willingness to cooperate with the government.

“The government cannot do this task alone of reducing and preventing infections. I am glad that faith-based organizations now have opened their doors to this calling of providing support to those infected and affected,”

she said.

The influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) repeatedly asked Cabral to resign following the health department’s distribution of free condom.

But the health chief maintained that she will only vacate her post if President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a devout Catholic, told her to do so.

The forum held at the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) main office in Quezon City was attended by representatives from the CBCP, Ang Dating Daan, Pinoy Plus Foundation, the Philippine National Aids Council and the DSWD.

Records of the Department of Health (DOH) showed that 4,569 HIV cases were registered in the country from 1984 to January 2010. Most of the recent cases belong to the 20 to 39 years old age group or young professionals.

The health chief has earlier announced an HIV/AIDS summit on April 12 and has invited church leaders and pro-life groups to attend the event. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)