Target: Ms. Leonor Briones, Philippines’ Secretary of Education
Goal: Implement program to raise awareness of HIV prevention among Filipino youth despite the backlash by conservative groups.
The Philippines canceled the implementation of a sexual education awareness program even though the country currently has the fastest-growing HIV infection rate in Asia. According to the United Nations HIV/AIDS agency (UNAIDS), the rate of new infections in the Philippines has increased by more than 50 percent between 2010 and 2015, which is an entirely opposite trend for other Asian nations. Nevertheless, a coalition of parents, the Catholic Church, and conservative politicians enforced parochial positions on sex, sexuality, and sexual health that led to the cancellation of the much-needed HIV awareness program aimed for Filipino youth. In other words, some groups’ old values put the Philippines at risk of this severe epidemic.
Though the total number of Filipinos living with HIV is still relatively low, new infections are skyrocketing with a 230 percent increase among young people, especially gay men, injecting drug users, transgender women and female prostitutes. The spread of the virus among young people stimulated the Philippines’ Department of Health to develop a program that would combine distribution of condoms in high schools, counseling on sexual health and HIV tests by trained teachers, and training for parents who would like to talk about the issues with their children. The program would effectively address the lack of information on the spread of the disease among Filipino youth.
Conservatives have associated the distribution of condoms in schools to the encouragement of promiscuity. Not only is this statement completely ignorant of decades of scientific development and cultural change but also blind to the restricted and complicated access to contraceptive methods in the country, especially by young people. Nongovernmental organizations have reported that since last year, women, babies, and toddlers have increasingly tested positive for HIV, suggesting that infections are moving into the general population.
Demand that the program designed for youth in the Philippines is implemented before prevention becomes a more complex challenge.
Dear Ms. Briones,
According to the United Nations HIV/AIDS agency (UNAIDS), the rate of new HIV infections in your country has increased by more than 50 percent between 2010 and 2015, which is an entirely opposite trend for other Asian nations. Infections are skyrocketing among the youth because they lack access to contraceptive methods and information about the spread of the disease. This scenario has stimulated the Department of Health to design a program focused on young people, with high attention to cost-benefit balance. It is extremely disappointing and worrisome that such a program could not be implemented because your office gave in to the pressure of conservative individuals and groups who expressed an archaic point of view on sex, sexuality and sexual health.
Recent reports by nongovernmental and international organizations alert to the high possibility of the spread of HIV to a larger portion of the population, ultimately leading to an out-of-control epidemic. I urge you not to put your country at risk and accept as soon as possible the carefully designed program conceived by the Department of Health to control the rise of this potentially deadly virus.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Wen-Yan King