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AIDS/HIV New Archive: PHILIPPINES


Risk from HIV/AIDS from Overseas Workers 01/12/03 -- Agence France Presse

On Monday in Manila, Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit warned that HIV could spread in the Philippines through millions of Filipinos who have engaged in risky sex behavior while working overseas. According to official figures, 5 million to 7 million Filipinos work abroad, many as sailors who dock in ports where AIDS rates among sex workers are almost 75 percent. "We don't want to stigmatize these people who returned from abroad, but what we are saying is, they should play safe," Dayrit said. The number of HIV-infected people remains low in the largely Roman Catholic country: only 1,935 HIV cases have been reported since 1984. However, conservative estimates say there could be 4,000 to 6,000 unreported cases, Dayrit said, most of whom are workers who have recently returned from overseas. He called on workers who have engaged in risky sex to undergo voluntary HIV testing when they return for the Christmas holidays.


Philippines Proud of Its Low Infection Rate, Number of Cases 21/05/03 -- San Francisco Chronicle

The Philippines has one of the lowest AIDS rates in Asia, with the number of cases among its 84 million inhabitants just 9,400 - only .1 percent of people ages 15-49, according to UNAIDS. In contrast, Burma, with about half the Philippines' population, has at least 400,000 people infected with HIV. "Local studies over the past 10 years show that Filipinos tend to start having sex later than in the United States, Europe and neighboring [Asian] countries," said Dr. Michael L. Tan, a medical anthropologist and AIDS expert. The surveys have shown that Filipinos typically have fewer sexual partners than do people in Asian countries with higher AIDS rates. Government statistics show that 15 percent of heterosexual Filipino men frequent brothels, compared with 80 percent to 90 percent of Thai counterparts. Health experts also cite the low number of intravenous drug addicts. UNAIDS estimates that only .6 percent of those infected acquired the disease by injecting drugs, compared to 38 percent in Vietnam. But Dr. James Piad, of the government's National AIDS Council, says the virus has an explosive potential. Specifically, experts point to the millions of Filipinos who work overseas and are potential carriers of the virus. According to the country's National Epidemiology Center, 30 percent of all HIV/AIDS cases are overseas workers. Once abroad, says Malu Marin, executive director of the nongovernmental organization Action for Health Initiatives, Filipinos "are able to reinvent their life. Basically, everybody turns a blind eye [to sexual encounters] and even encourages them." After campaigns in the 1980s-90s, the government passed the torch of AIDS education to NGOs, which have fewer resources for spreading health messages. Moreover, the government has been leery of angering the Roman Catholic Church by promoting condom use. About 80 percent of the population is Catholic. Condoms are also unpopular with many men, and women are reluctant to ask their partners to use them, AIDS activists say. According to a 2000 study, two-thirds of sexually active males have never used condoms.


Philippines: HIV/AIDS Campaigns Must Not Forget Gay People 21/10/02 -- Inter Press Service

Education campaigns on HIV/AIDS and health care programs among lesbians are badly needed in the Philippines, activists say. "Low risk doesn't mean no risk," said Maria Cristina Cristobal, executive director of Lesbian Advocates Philippines (LEAP). Cristobal says most lesbians are unaware that they, too, can acquire HIV/AIDS and STDs from women partners who are bisexual or who may have had previous sexual contact with an HIV- positive heterosexual male. Although there have been documented cases of lesbians living with AIDS in the West, Filipino lesbians tend to think their infection was more an outcome of lifestyle rather than a biological risk and susceptibility to the disease, explained Cristobal, who spoke before the 6th Philippine National Convention on AIDS on October 18. Cristobal cited a LEAP study conducted among 50 lesbian activists that showed that all of them equated safe sex only with a limited range of factors - proper hygiene, monogamy, no use of sexual devices, experimentation and use of gloves. The fact that there has been no reported incidence of lesbians acquiring HIV/AIDS in the country has helped bolster the concept that "lesbian sex is safer sex," she said. Of the 50 lesbians polled by LEAP, for instance, only six had had a Pap smear examination. Cristobal also cited a reluctance among lesbians to discuss their sexual health and practices because many suffer discrimination at the hands of doctors or other medical practitioners. Professor Archie Logo added that being lesbian becomes a problem especially in a predominantly conservative Roman Catholic population like the Philippines. "Today the ratio of HIV infection among men and women in Southeast Asia is rapidly moving towards one to one, with 80 to 90 percent of infections transmitted through heterosexual contact," said Pennie Azarcon de la Cruz, a journalist who has written extensively on the pandemic and who spoke during the session on women and HIV/AIDS. According to UNAIDS, the Philippines still has a low incidence of HIV/AIDS, at less than 0.1 percent of people ages 15 to 49, or 9,400 people. A UN Development Program study showed young Filipino women ages 19 to 29 represented the group with the highest number of infections based on gender.


Philippines Worried over HIV Infections Among Overseas Workers 24/08/02 -- Deutsche Presse-Agentur

Philippines' Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit on Saturday expressed concern over an increasing number of overseas Filipino workers infected with HIV. Since 1997, 50 to 60 cases of HIV have been reported among overseas Filipino workers annually. While HIV infection among Filipinos remains low compared to other countries, Dayrit said the Department of Health was making the increase of cases among overseas workers "a cause of concern," because they are contributing to an increase in cases in the country. An average of 12 to 15 HIV cases were reported every month this year, compared to 10 a month in 2000. Since January 1984, 1,733 HIV cases have been recorded in the Philippines.


Catholic Church Frowns on Anti-AIDS Ads 2/1/99 -- Los Angeles Times

Three anti-AIDS advertisements aired in the Philippines have been criticized by members of the Catholic church. The 30-second ads have been characterized as pro-family planning and as an endorsement of condoms. Msgr. Pedro Quitorio, assistant secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, said that while the organization is concerned about the spread of HIV, "the solution is that husbands should remain faithful to their wives, and then there is no AIDS." A total of 1,130 cases of HIV have been reported in the Philippines; the country has the third-lowest HIV-infection rate in Southeast Asia behind Laos and Singapore.


Manila No Longer Allows Media Interview With AIDS Victims 18/7/98 --

The media will no longer be permitted to interview AIDS patients in the Philippines, according to the country's Department of Health. Statistics on the number of AIDS patients in the Philippines also will not be disclosed, said Philippine Department of Health Service head Jasmin Chipeco. Chipeco explained that the agency is trying to protect the civil rights, as well as the human rights, of people with AIDS. Moreover, Chipeco added, the Health Department would like not to have a repeat of the (local) media coverage and exploitation of AIDS patient Sarah Jane Salazar, who lives with a 17-year-old man and recently gave birth to her second child.

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