AIDS: Creeping in the Dark

The cases of AIDS and HIV is alarmingly rising in the Philippines, especially among males who have sexual experience with another male.

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines- Two shadows were approaching, and then a hint of light revealed their identities: a young gay couple. 

One of them was tightly holding the arm of his partner. Then they were gone in the dark. 

The beach was silent and calm that night. Dark and tempting areas were everywhere, unlit cottages lined up.

“I went with him because I was attracted to his gay companion earlier. I thought it was his friend who would play with me,” John said while dusting off the sand in his body. 

“He laid me down in the sand while he was playing mine,” he continued. “And he asked me to get inside him and I did even without condom. When we were both done, he gave me P100.” 


AIDS in the Philippines

John is 19; he has medium built body and stands about 5’10.

He belongs to the 15-24 age bracket in which AIDS and HIV-positive individuals spike in alarming rate  according to UNICEF.

For August this year, 509 new HIV Ab sero-positive individuals were confirmed by the STD/AIDS Cooperative Central Laboratory (SACCL) and reported to the Philippine HIV and AIDS Registry. This was 33% higher compared to the same period last year.


[SCREENSHOT] The rising HIV/AIDS cases in the Philippines from 2012-2014 . SOURCE: PNAC, August 2014 report


Of the those cases, 146 were recorded in John’s age group and the most predominant mode of transmission was “males having sex with other males,” which was responsible for 87% of all infections that month.

In a 2012 UNAIDS report, the Philippines was one of the 9 countries that lost the battle against HIV/AIDS, alongside Bangladesh, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Republic of Moldova, and Sri Lanka. These countries failed to stop the spread of the virus when new cases worldwide have dropped by 50% from 2001 to 2011.

Every 3 hours someone in the Philippines is infected with the virus. In 2012, there were only 9 new cases of HIV/AIDS reported every day and only 1 new case every 3 days in 2000.

In the 1990’s, Sarah Jane Salazar was the face of the AIDS in the country. Her sufferings due to the infection were proof of the strength of the virus. In June 2000, at the age of 25, she died from AIDS complications.

Her death, however, seemed not enough to warn younger and future generations.

In 2008, Wanggo Gallaga, a Filipino gay man, told the public that he is HIV-positive. He helped revived the conversation on HIV/AIDS in the country.

Youth, awareness

UNICEF and the Department of Health (DOH) were both alarmed by the high number of young Filipinos — as young as 10 years old — who tested positive for HIV/AIDS.

In 2013, a 17 year-old girl was reported to be the youngest person who died from AIDS in Davao City. She was 15 years old when she acquired the virus. For confidentiality, her identity was not made public.

In the K-12 program of the Department of Education, sex education — with emphasis on infections like HIV/AIDS — begins in Grade 8. Broader topics are then discussed in Grades 9 and 10. However, since 2007 the dropout rates in the country for both elementary and secondary levels have been slowly rising.

The rise in dropout rates is adding new digits to the “unaware” population or those who are most prone to the infection.



"How hard is it to talk about sex and its risks among family members especially among the teens? Apparently for many, it’s really hard, as well as awkward."
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Sex education — which includes sexual health — is considered taboo topic in most households.

How hard is it to talk about sex and its risks among family members especially among the teens?

Apparently for many, it’s really hard, as well as awkward. But will you allow ignorance to prevail? Lucky are those who could afford to send their children to schools where sexual health is being discussed, but how about those who can’t?
  
Today with modern technology, many young people are being tempted by the pleasures of sex. Many young people are facing the risks. Not talking sexual health is like pushing our youth to fall to the trap.

In this Rappler article, Dr. Margie Holmes and Mr Jeremy Baer addressed the letter of a mom who have discomforts talking sex education with her daughter. In their reply, they both emphasized the importance of proper sex education among youth and the dangers of being misinformed by peers and the internet. 

There are also cons in talking sexual health and of sex education in general of course, but the pros outweighs those. Read it here

In this generation where our youth faces different issues, our guidance is necessary. Letting them feel that we are open and willing to listen even in sensible issues is a way providing them a sense of security. 

It is being responsible adult apart from giving them their basic needs.  

In discussing sexual health, these links could be of great help:
            Link 1
            Raising Healthy Kids 1
            Raising Healthy Kids 2

The DOH and non-governmental organizations like Love Yourself have recognized the importance of education and awareness in AIDS/HIV prevention. It is only through awareness we can stop the spread of disease if abstinence is not an option.


Going back to John, how many Filipino youths are in his situation? No statistics is currently available, but one thing is certain, John is not alone. Is he still safe? Let’s just hope he still is.


The alarming trend of infection is laid in front of us: young victims are on the rise and some of them are dying. When will we take action to protect our youth? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.



4 comments

  1. Pabata nang pabata ang mga nagkakasakit. Di ko maimagine yung 17yo na girl. Tsk tsk...

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  2. Really Nice and Interesting Post. I was Looking for this Kind of Information and Enjoyed Reading this One. Keep Posting. Thanks for Sharing.

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  3. I am shocked after reading these stats. We all know about the AIDS, but still some people who live in the rural area are not aware with disease which is caused by Virus. It slowly starts to damage the immune system.
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  4. Thanks for the more information. We all know that HIV affect the immune strength of the body which leads to the premature death.

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