Manila (AsiaNews) – The Filipino bishops condemn the government for its free distribution of condoms in the poorest parts of Manila and other regions of the country in the name of the fight against AIDS. The bishops call on the authorities to promote marital fidelity, abstinence and responsible sexuality among the population. Archbishop Theodore Bacon, Bishop Emeritus of Novaliches, says: "Is this a way to prevent transmission of HIV or is it only a way to encourage irresponsible sex which instead increases the spread of HIV?". For the prelate abstinence from sexual intercourse to prevent infection is required, rather than sponsoring condoms or other short-term solution.
The distribution of condoms started on 13 February at the initiative of Eric Tayag, head of the Department of Health and Epidemiology of Manila. On board the vans with the words "Are you sexually active?", Members of the department distributed posters and condoms in the neighbourhoods of the city, warning people about the risks of unprotected sex. The government decision came a few days after a halt on the debate on the reproductive health law. For years now this has sponsored the use of condoms as a remedy for AIDS and population growth.
"The government has not spent anything for this initiative - said Eric Tayag - everything has been funded by private companies and pharmaceutical companies." He emphasizes that the program does not intend to promote contraception, but wants to encourage couples to have safe sex.
For the Church, the growth in infections can not be resolved only with the distribution of condoms, which rather tends to increase sexual activity among the young. "This campaign undermines the significance of human sexuality and love - said Fr Melvin Castro, secretary of the Commission for family life of the Filipino bishops' conference - and deserves the condemnation of the entire population. " The figures for 2006 of the Philippines Population Institute show that 49% of the sexual activity among the young between 15 and 24 years is unplanned, and particularly affects young people with no access to schools. According to the study promiscuous relationships are more common among students of institutions participating in sex education programs.
The archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales said that condoms and free sex is not the way to prepare for the future, for looking for a partner and building a family. "We must go back to rediscover the purity of loving relationships - says the prelate - living relationships with loyalty and fidelity."
For years, churches and pro-life organizations have been sponsoring the Natural Family Program in schools, which aims to disseminate information on risks of free sex and the use of contraceptives, promoting a conscious and responsible sexual life based on the values of Christianity. In 2009 629 new cases of AIDS out of 88 million inhabitants were registered in the Philippines. Despite the trend being an increase compared to 2008, the country has one of the lowest infection rates in Asia. In Thailand, where state and international associations have carried out a massive campaign to promote use of condoms, in 2008, there were 610 thousand patients (1% of the population) and 31 thousand deaths. In the same year the Philippines registered about 9 thousand infected (0.1% of the population) and 308 deaths.