ARMM gov’t will be ‘culturally sensitive’ on the issue of condom distribution in schools
COTABATO CITY - The government of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) will be “culturally sensitive” should the program on the distribution of condoms in schools is implemented in the region, Governor Mujiv Hataman said during the ‘Tapatan sa ARMM’, a regular media forum held on Thursday in Cotabato City.
Secretary Paulyn Ubial of the Department of Health (DOH) earlier said the program will be implemented nationwide this year as part of efforts to stop the increasing number of cases of human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) among the youth.
The program would be implemented in partnership with the Department of Education (DepEd), which has expressed reservation on the plan. In a statement, DepEd said it recognizes the need to stop the surging spread of HIV/AIDS among the youth and that discussions with DOH on this matter will soon be conducted.
In the ARMM, where most places are conservative and people consider sex-related topics taboo, Gov. Hataman underscored that the regional government will undertake measures to deliberate on the plan. “Definitely, the ARMM government will be culturally sensitive,” Gov. Hataman said. He added that Islamic religious leaders such as the Regional Darul 'Ifta, which is the authority on religious and cultural values of Muslims in the region, would be consulted on this issue.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines has warned that condom distribution in schools will encourage pre-marital sex among Filipino youth noting it could even condone sexual activity among students.
But the DOH explained that the distribution of condoms will be accompanied by guidelines and measures, and will not be distributed indiscriminately to students. Those receiving condoms, it added, will undergo counseling, and sex education discussions with their parents. Teachers, it noted, will be trained on how to impart lessons on sex education.
In the Philippines, 32,099 cases of HIV/AIDS were reported from 2011 to October 2016. Government data also showed 9,066 HIV/AIDS cases reported during the five-year period were traced to those aged 15 to 25. The ARMM has remained at the bottom of the DOH’s list of regions with cases of HIV/AIDS. Despite this, the Infectious Diseases Cluster (IDC) of the ARMM’s Health department warned citizens not to be complacent.
“Whether we like it or not, we have HIV cases in the ARMM,” said Soraida Amilil, IDC cluster head. As of October this year, 13 cases of HIV have been reported while none emerged as a full-blown AIDS case. The region reported two AIDS cases and seven HIV cases in 2014. Since 1984, the region’s Health department has reported a total of 76 cases of HIV while 11 were reported to have led to AIDS.
The DOH has allocated a P1-billion fund for the HIV/AIDS program, with P50 million to P100 million intended for the procurement of condom. The department has launched awareness drives on preventive measures for HIV leading to AIDS. (Bureau of Public Information)