Estremera: HIV-Aids and spirituality

WE’RE taking a Holy Week break but my mind continues to ponder about sex, the kind that spread HIV-Aids.

In the years that we have witnessed HIV-Aids reach today’s numbers, we’ve often been told by those working for its prevention that their greatest enemy is not even high-risk sexual activities but the prevailing belief that they can’t possibly get it.

Of course, many a young person realized too late that no one is immune and that prevention is in safe sex or abstention, period. (That is of course except for the few who got it through blood transfusion or through mother-to-baby transmission).

The real focus now is on men having sex with men because it is in this grouping where the skyrocketing numbers are coming from.

January 2016 figures place the number of new cases at 804 in the country which is 50 percent higher as compared to December 2015 with 650 cases and January 2015 with 536 cases.

Of the number 771 were contracted through sex and 33 from injecting drugs. Of the 771, 89 percent are males having sex with males (MSM).

It can get complicated by the belligerence of youth or worst, the thinking that since I’m already infected, then I just might as well enjoy my life.

God forbid.

But then, this too can happen. After all, the acceptance of one’s condition will depend from individual to individual.

There are those who will become despondent, there will be those who will be suicidal, there will be those who will want to get back at the world, there will be those who will seek help, and a lot of others who may not fall in any of these classifications.

Then, there’s the stigma, the abandonment that can happen.

Indeed, human emotions and emotional stability varies from individual to individual.

This is where peer support is most important.

We are lucky in Davao that there is a strong network of groups who are there to give support to persons who tested positive with HIV-Aids.

There are the non-government organizations who counsel and guide those who seek them out, then there is the Reproductive Health and Wellness Center that maintains a high profile in media but a very strict confidentiality of HIV-Aids cases, thus encouraging more and more to be tested and be counseled.

This is what happens when a community tackles a problem at its roots and is not forced to move behind a veil because of the disapproving eyes of the Church. When light is cast on a problem, instead of denying its existence, many step up to help provide the solution.

This is what’s happening here.

The prevalence of HIV-Aids can no longer be denied since 1984 when the registry was first set up.

But while the support of a person who has tested positive is already in place, the situation that can create a breeding ground for more cases is the anonymity provided by technology.

In the special report published by Sun.Star Davao last March 14 and 15, both prostituted women and people who pay for sex admit that it is easier now to get what you want through cellphone and cellphone apps.

Safe in one’s own room or wherever you may quietly sit down undisturbed, it becomes easier to reach out to satisfy sexual urges.

You no longer need to shop along Tionko Street for women or search through the band of Bakal boys where they converge.
But think, the anonymity provided by technology to scratch an itch can very well be used to reach out to those who might be silently suffering from the fear or unconfirmed belief that they have already contracted something.

There is a wide ground here that can be covered when technology weds realities. An app for an app. That’s something worth pondering about.

Of course, there will be those who will frown and claim that this will be encouraging promiscuity… as if humans even have to be encouraged to be promiscuous when the basic tenets – that includes family and spirituality – have already been corrupted.

Excuse me, if there are those who think these are inappropriate thoughts for a Maundy Thursday. For me, this is a reality that has to be faced if we truly would want to be a Christian nation whose Christian values are intact. Jesus Christ himself have always reached out not to the pious and self-righteous, but to the wretched and lost.

saestremera@yahoo.com
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