Pia welcomes Pope’s statement on condom use

“It is with a huge sigh of relief that I welcome the statements of the Pope and his acknowledgment that condom use may be justified to help stop the spread of AIDS. This should have a significant impact on the Philippine government’s own campaign to address rising cases of HIV/AIDS in the country.”

Thus said Senator Pia S. Cayetano, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, in reaction to the widely reported statements of Pope Benedict XI on condom use as a means to fight AIDS.

“The Pope’s statement has far-reaching effects because it is not only HIV/AIDS that could be prevented with the responsible use of condoms, but also other deadly and highly communicable diseases that are transmitted sexually. These include the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted virus known to cause cervical cancer, and the Hepatitis B Virus (HBV), which can also be transmitted through sexual contact,” she added.

Cayetano noted that present estimates indicate that about 7,000 Filipino women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year. Cervical cancer is also the second leading cause of death among women in the country. On the other hand, around 8 million Filipinos are estimated to be carriers of the HBV, which is known to cause various liver ailments including liver cancer.

Finally, she urged public support for the Department of Health (DOH) to pursue its campaign on HIV/AIDS education and awareness.

“Being at the forefront of the campaign on HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, the DOH should be allowed to implement its programs to address rising HIV/AIDS cases in the last two decades.”

Citing latest official figures from the National Epidemiology Center, she said there were 153 new HIV positive cases documented from January to September this year, which is a 173% jump compared to the 56 cases documented during the same period last year. Of this number, three were reported as AIDS cases.

Cayetano added that of the 5,625 HIV positive cases from years 1984 to 2010, 852 are verified AIDS cases. About 9 in every 10 persons who tested positive for HIV contacted the virus through sexual contact. She added that the figure is still understated because the government’s HIV and AIDS registry only covers cases reported to accredited HIV testing facilities.

“Stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015 and reversing its trend is in fact included in the country’s commitments under the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The government should make full use of the opportunity to intensify its campaign with the help of all concerned sectors, possibly including the Catholic Church.” #

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