01/31/2018, 18.04
PHILIPPINES

As HIV/AIDS cases increase, Church and the authorities grow alarmed

by Santosh Digal

Gay sex is responsible for 83 per cent of new HIV cases. Two out of three new HIV infections occur among men aged 15 to 24 years. The Bishops’ Conference (CBCP) urges people to act and behave responsibly. For Fr James McTavish, “the true solution to the epidemic is not the distribution of condoms, but the humanisation of sexuality.”

Manila (AsiaNews) – The rise in the rate of new HIV cases in the country worries the Filipino Church and health experts.

In the past few years, the Philippines has recorded the fastest rise in HIV/AIDS cases in Asia-Pacific region with a 140 per cent increase, the Philippines Department of Health reported.

Citing data from the United Nations Program for AIDS/HIV (UNAIDS), Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial noted that at the end of 2016, 10,500 Filipinos had been infected with the human immunodeficiency virus, up from 4,300 in 2010.

In May 2017 alone, there were 1,098 new cases, the highest number recorded since 1984, when the infection was reported for the first time.

Between January and November of last year, 428 people died of AIDS d in the Philippines, one of seven nations in the world where infections are increasing.

Eamonn Murphy, director of the UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Asia and the Pacific, said that 83 per cent of new HIV cases are among sexually active gay men and transgender women who have sex with men.

Two out of three new HIV infections affect males aged 15 to 24 because of poor understanding of HIV transmission, symptoms, and treatment.

The Health Commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has called on people to adopt responsible practices and behaviours.

Mgr Gilbert Armea Garcera, archbishop of Lipa and former president of the Commission, noted that awareness about how the disease is acquired and transmitted are the priorities of the Catholic Church.

The Filipino Church is making an effort to present HIV/AIDS statistics, look at causes, modes of transmission and effects.

"This information is vital for priests and religious, because the Church is called to serve brothers and sisters who live with HIV and AIDS," said Fr James McTavish, a strong proponent of the Church's prevention programme.

Originally from Scotland, the missionary is a member of the Verbum Dei community based in Quezon City (diocese of Cubao).

Before becoming a priest, Fr McTavish was a surgeon and now teaches Moral Theology and Bioethics at the Jesuit-run Loyola School of Theology and also gives courses at the Dominican University of Santo Tomas, Manila.

In addition to gay men, “Other high-risk groups are overseas foreign workers, injecting drug addicts, and prostitutes. All of this has implications for the content and form of our catechesis, homilies and preaching.”

For the clergyman, "Some helpful catechetical points will be given relating to our message on human sexuality, including a discussion on why the true solution to the epidemic is not the distribution of condoms, but the humanisation of sexuality".

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