Bernardo M. Villegas
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Sin Products

             A very well researched scientific paper by Angelo Porciuncula, a U.P. graduate in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology and now pursuing doctoral studies in Molecular Biology at a European university, has come out with a very provocative suggestion:  to strictly regulate, if not totally ban, the use of condoms in the Philippines.  Co-authored with former U.P. instructor Oliver M. Tuazon, the article is entitled "Can the Philippines keep AIDs at bay if it embraces condom culture?" which appeared in the March 5, 2012 issue of the online magazine Mercator.net. It shows strong evidence that in countries where condoms were promoted, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS increased.  The latest book of Harvard University AIDS research expert Dr. Edward Green, "Broken Promises:  How the AIDS Establishment has Betrayed the Developing World," boldly takes up this topic and suggests that a "sex-positive" approach and condoms promotions in Africa have contributed to the continent being the home of the greatest number of AIDS victims in the world. 

 

          Even as far back as 2003, Dr. Green already pointed out in his book "Rethinking AIDS Prevention," that behavioral change was more effective than condom promotion.   This finding is very relevant to the current debate on the RH Bill.  While HIV/AIDs prevalence in the Philippines is still "low and slow," and before condom promotion undermines its sexual culture any further, policy makers need to promote legislation that will regulate, if not totally ban, the use of condoms, in a way similar to what has been done with tobacco.

          The paper contrasts the experiences of Thailand and the Philippines in the promotion of condoms.  Once referred to as an "HIV mystery," the Philippines has HIV levels that have remained extremely low since the first AIDS case was diagnosed in 1984.  With a prevalence of less than 0.1%, it is second only to Bangladesh in Asia, despite having risk factors that have long pointed to the AIDS epidemic waiting to happen.  In the late 1980s, Thailand and the Philippines had roughly the same number of HIV/AIDs at 112 and 135, respectively.  In the early 1990s, the government of Thailand enforced the 100% Condom Use program in its booming commercial sex industry while the Philippines was characterized by its very low rate of condom use.  In 2003, almost fifteen years later, the number of HIV/AIDs cases in Thailand had ballooned to 750,000 while the number in the Philippines remained at a relatively low level of 1,935 cases even as the latter's population rose to more than 30 per cent of Thailand. Thailand now ranks as the country with the highest HIV prevalence in Asia.

          Given these experiences, the authors propose a "Condom Regulation Act."  This would be analogous to the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003, which noted, among other things, the "policy of the State to protect the populace from hazardous products and promote the right to health and instill health consciousness among them."  The Act stipulated that the "use, sale and advertisements of tobacco products shall be regulated in order to promote a healthful environment and protect the citizens from the hazards of tobacco smoke..."  Certain provisions of the Tobacco Act could be translated into a "Condoms Regulation Act," as follows:

          - Inform the public of the health risks, both cumulative and compensatory, associated with condoms.

          - Regulate and subsequently ban all condom advertisements and sponsorships, including celebrity endorsements.

          - Regulate the labeling of condoms along these lines:  condoms are not 100% effective against HIV/AIDS; condoms do not protect you from STDs such as HPV and HSV; being faithful to your spouse is more effective than condoms; condoms can predispose you to STDs; say no to pre-marital sex.

          - Protect youth from being initiated to pre-marital sex, which is a major reason for the spread of HIV/AIDs and other STDs.  A behavior change program can be implemented for those already initiated, and programs on character education, fidelity to one's spouse and family can be incorporated in the grade and high school curricula.