The Philippines is one of only seven countries in the world where HIV is on the rise, and the increase is fueling a debate in the staunchly Catholic country over condom use.
Humphrey Gorriceta, one of the few infected gay men in the Philippines willing to speak publicly, told AFP that people need to get educated. "There are efforts to incorporated HIV education in the mainstream educational system," he said, "but the problem is that the Catholic church — the hardcore Catholic church — is holding us back. They are saying that it's not appropriate."
The United Nations is warning of an HIV epidemic in the Philippines, with low condom use largely to blame. Ten new cases are being detected every day, which is three times the rate of just a few years ago. Nearly 90 percent of the new cases are among gay men. For fifteen years, campaigners have been lobbying for legislation that would allow the government to give out free condoms to the poor and make sex education mandatory in the schools. The Catholic church has succeeded in blocking their efforts.
Father Joel Jason of the Commission of Family and Life told AFP's reporter that "HIV and AIDs are a behavioral problem. [...] It is people's lack of discipline in terms of their sexual behavior."
Condemns are available in supermarkets and pharmacies.
Not only is HIV on the rise in the Philippines, but so are teen pregnancies. As reported in June, over the past decade, there has been a 70 percent increase in the number of teenage pregnancies there. The Catholic church has been successful in blocking sex education and legislation enabling the distribution of artificial birth control that is part of a reproductive health bill.