“He’s only 22, very young, but spends all his remaining time in the government hospital,” my Thai friend told me in halting English.
“If only he had been careful.” I said.
Somebody who is as young, as inexperienced as that friend of a friend doesn’t deserve to die, only if he practiced safe sex or altogether abstained from having sex. But knowing that the latter is difficult, if not impossible to do, he could have opted for protected sex.
He contracted the disease amid Thailand’s rigorous campaign to use condom as protection from AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections .
From 1984 to 2007 in the Philippines, the number of registered cases reported was 3,061, with 2,754 persons still alive. But according to the Department of Health and the World Health Organization, the actual figure could be higher, accounting for unreported cases since the stigma of having AIDS causes those with the disease to die in silence or infect unknowingly their partners. In 2007, these two health agencies estimated that there are around 7,490 people living with HIV in the Philippines, an increase of 1500 from the 6,000 estimate in 2002.
In an article published on the Philippine Daily Inquirer entitled ‘Change in behavior, not condoms, will stem AIDS’. dated August 28, 2008, Pangasinan Archbishop Paciano Aniceto, chair of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ Commission on Family and Life, said promoting the use of condoms would be “dangerous and ineffective.”
He was reacting to a statement by Health Undersecretary Mario Villaverde, who said last week condom use was one of the most effective ways of preventing the spread of AIDS and HIV.
Also, two senators—Edgardo Angara and Pia Cayetano—have called on the government to strengthen laws on AIDS prevention and control, including more seriously educating the public on how to avoid it by using protection, such as condoms.
But Aniceto relayed the view of the Church in a statement yesterday: “We are constrained to express grave concerns over the press statement attributed to Undersecretary of Health Mario Villaverde that the Department of Health will now promote the nationwide use of condoms, allegedly as a means to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.”
Condom use will not effectively protect one from contracting the virus, the prelate said, adding that a prophylactic is not 100 percent foolproof.
“It is the duty of the DOH never to propose for general public use any prophylactic that could increase the incidence of the disease it is supposed to prevent,” the archbishop said.
“It is, therefore, irresponsible, imprudent and dangerous for the department to declare that the use of the condom, without any change in unhealthy sexual behavior, will prevent seropositive cases from transmitting HIV/AIDS to their seronegative spouses,” he said.
In this case, we see two public entities, the government health agency and the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines conflicting over the control over the people’s private spheres. The former for reason of public health security as in the disease is difficult to contain once in its more advanced stage so finding ways for its prevention is a more rational approach; the latter, on the other hand, is vehemently against the use of condom on grounds of morality.
I see it as a myopic vision of the Catholic Church in the Philippines. The prevalence of sex outside marriage, premarital sex, or other forms of “immoral” sexual activities such as homosexual acts might as well mirror its utter failure to educate Filipino morality, its failure to make its parishioners understand that sodomy will send those who practice the act to hell, its failure to do what it is primarily tasked to do–teach morality (but ended up moralizing).
Now it is embarking on a grander scheme of changing public policies as if these policies are their papal nuncios.
When will we start educating people to be responsible as regards sex when all the parishioners are already dying of AIDS?
It reminded me of a statement made by Friedrich Nietzsche a century ago:
There are people who want to make men’s lives more difficult for no other reason than the chance it provides them afterwards to offer their prescription for alleviating life; their Christianity, for instance.
Does this hold true? Does the opposition of the Catholic Church in the Philippines to legalize the use of artificial contraception to curb population explosion, which is one of the major reasons for the downward spiraling of not only the economy but also the standard of living of the Filipino family, an attempt to make the lives of each Filipino miserable just so the Church can show its charity? Funny. But with things going on now, nothing can be more true.
Does the opposition of the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines to the use of condom to prevent AIDS a ploy to make the lost sheep find their shepherd, or so that the prodigal son can repent and the goodness of the father be exalted?
If we look at the issue on moral grounds, the Church will always have its way. 80 plus per cent of the voting population are adherents to Catholicism, at least as stated on their baptismal certificates. And the Church can always make use of this fact to pressure the Legislative, for 80 per cent of votes is enough for members of the Philippine legislature to deal with Satan (unintended pun) or the prelates.
If only we transcend the un-winnable moral grounds and look at the rational side of the issue.
It is easier to convince a man to use condom (that is if it is available and he knows where to get it) whenever he wants to have sex than to convince him to abstain from having sex because his soul will burn in Hades.
It makes more sense to persuade an Overseas Filipino Worker to use condom while having sex in a faraway land than to tell him to be a good Christian and therefore must not have sex outside marriage.
It is more sensible to tell the youth to practice safe sex than to tell them that premarital sex is immoral, for after all they will still do it.
The use of artificial methods to protect one from conceiving, sexually transmitted infection, or AIDS makes more sense than waiting in vain for the people to espouse the kind of morality taught by the church. It’ll never be a good idea to see people not following the Church’s teachings suffer from hunger because the family members are too numerous, from AIDS because he had sex with so many men, or poverty–all because of the absence of a clear-cut law on the production, distribution, and use of contraceptives in general. Hell has its proper place and proper time.
Let’s give them the choice.
My Thai friend emailed me this morning that her gay friend just died because of multiple organ failure last night, the usual result of AIDS.