Philippine Government Keeps Conservative Stance on Sex Education Despite Rising HIV Threat

The Philippines has one of the lowest incidents of HIV infections in the world, which the government and Catholic Church attributed to being "a prayerful nation." However, the number of recently-diagnosed HIV patients in the country has doubled in just over three years. The Health Department projects that HIV patients have risen to 11,168 from about 6,000 in 2002.

Despite the alarming data, the Philippine government is still keen on keeping its conservative policy on birth control and HIV prevention. Although condoms are available in the market, it is not distributed in public health centers because the Catholic Church, the country’s dominant religion, views these as promotional tools for adultery and premarital sex, while advocating that sex is meant solely for procreation. In this context, the use of condoms-even for prevention of HIV/ AIDS-becomes an immoral and sinful act.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who is known for bending to pressures from the Catholic Church, told the UN General Assembly in 2005 to "respect the deep Catholicism of the Filipino people," adding that natural family planning is more effective than artificial means like condoms. Her statements prompted outrage from activists and non-governmental organizations.

Observers have criticized the Catholic Church in the Philippines for their negative influence on sexual and reproductive health. Sex education in public schools were erased from the curriculum during Arroyo’s presidency, which the Church considers as "immoral" information.

The Department of Education revised the lesson plan to teach high school students about the health and science angles on reproductive health, which is currently being reviewed by the Presidential Council on Values Formation, which is mostly composed of members of the clergy.

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