Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mind your own business


"The ratio of tolerance of our bishops toward the excesses of the Arroyo regime is directly proportional to their intolerance for condoms and contraceptives.” —Philip Gilmore

Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral decided to distribute free condoms “to those who cannot afford it” because HIV/AIDS cases are spreading at an alarming rate. That earned her the ire of the Catholic Church.

One bishop denounced her timely intervention as immoral and warned her that “she already has one foot in hell and many more might suffer the same fate” if she did not stop what she was doing.

“It’s very immoral for someone in a government position to support the distribution of condoms, which we know do not really reduce or stop the spread of HIV/AIDS. It’s scary because it’s the morality of our society, especially of our youth, that is at stake. We only wish that Cabral would change because she already has one foot in hell. People might suffer the same fate,” the bishop said.

Another bishop refused to accept the fact that Cabral’s primary duty as the secretary of health is to safeguard the public’s physical well-being, not their spiritual health and salvation. He wanted her fired for reasons that would make sense only if the Philippines were a theocratic state like Iran or an Afghanistan under the Taliban.

“Secretary Cabral should not continue serving until June because the culture and morality of society will be endangered under her. First, she does not respect the big number of Catholics in the country who oppose the distribution of condoms. Second, is she Catholic? I doubt that she is. Because if you are a Catholic and in the government, you should be living the teachings of the Church. But she is doing the opposite.”

Cabral wants to prevent life from becoming a living hell for a lot of people, and she gets hell for it. So I’m glad someone, Palace Deputy Spokesman Gary Olivar, reminded the bishops of the different standards that apply to the secular and religious worlds.

“We should remember that public officials should be judged by standards of public-policy interest as set forth in our laws and legal precedents, and not the morality of this or that institution,” he said.

Unfortunately, Olivar’s colleague, returning Deputy Spokesman Ricardo Saludo, proved to be a big disappointment. Well, actually he’s not, not to a bishop spinning yarns.

“Long before AIDS spread in the Philippines, it reached alarming levels in countries that strongly promote condoms. Also, condoms may encourage risky sex by making people think that such behavior is made safe by condoms,” Saludo said.

Never mind that the spread of HIV/AIDS is more likely caused by the shortcomings of safe-sex education programs than malfunctioning condoms, and never mind that the teachings of self-appointed guardians of morality went unheeded. Or maybe it’s because feigned ignorance from someone who ought to know better helps promote a lie.

Cabral is doing the right thing. Gloria Arroyo is doing the right thing. The bishops are barking up the wrong tree. If they are really honest about it, they will admit to their fault and not lay the blame on Cabral and, by implication, Arroyo, whom they will never attack frontally. We know why they give her a free pass on corruption and human-rights abuses, but that’s another matter for another day.

For now, let’s just remind the bishops to do a little self-examination, to find out why they can’t get their parishioners to heed their teachings about morality and sex, and to stay the hell out of the way of a public servant who is doing her job.


baycas2 said...


ABC of HIV/AIDS here.

ABC (where A is risk avoidance and BC are risk reduction strategies) is in fact a program of our DOH although what is highlighted recently is the C in the ABC.

From the ABC link given above:

“The ABC approach in Uganda was and still is more than just abstinence and needs to be balanced without any emphasis on one aspect. Neither 'A' nor 'B' nor 'C' on its own can provide the answer to reducing risk of infection that is practical for every member of the population.”
- Dr Stella Talisuna, March 2005


“Without doubt measures to promote abstinence, fidelity and condom use are all essential to any comprehensive HIV prevention programme - but they alone are not enough. Also required is strong political commitment, frank and open discourse, community mobilisation and involvement of local organisations and businesses, as well as practical measures such as HIV testing and counselling, treatment of STIs, campaigns to combat stigma and discrimination, and efforts to promote gender equality.”

baycas2 said...

Research Findings on Programs to Reduce Teen Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Diseases selected highlights:

No. 1
Forty-eight comprehensive sex and STD/HIV education programs were studied, but not all of the programs targeted the same behavior. Results showed that 15 of 32 programs (47 percent) delayed the initiation of sex, six of 21 (29 percent) reduced the frequency of sex, and 11 of 24 (46 percent) reduced the number of sexual partners. None of the programs hastened the initiation of sex. In addition, 15 of 32 (47 percent) of the programs increased condom use, four of nine (44 percent) increased the use of other contraceptives, and 15 of 24 (63 percent) reduced sexual risk through changes in a combination of types of behavior. Thus, strong evidence shows that these programs do not increase sexual activity and, moreover, that some of them reduce sexual activity, increase the use of condoms or other contraceptives, or both.

No. 2
Brief clinic protocols that provided young people with information about abstinence and contraception did not typically increase sexual activity but did consistently increase the use of contraception.

No. 3
School-based and school-linked clinics and school condom-availability programs did not increase sexual activity, but it is not clear whether they increased condom or other contraceptive use.

No. 4
Four of six community-wide programs had a significant impact on one or more of the following: delaying sex, improving contraceptive use, or lowering pregnancy and birth rates. Even programs that focused primarily on contraceptive use did not hasten or increase sexual activity.

- Douglas Kirby, Ph.D., November, 2007

baycas2 said...

Comprehensive sex and STD/HIV education programs are the way to go as evidenced by Dr. Douglas Kirby’s dissertation cited above.

It is part of the solution both in curbing the rise of STD cases and controlling overpopulation.


One may read:

Promoting Reproductive Health: A Unified Strategy to Achieve the MDGs

Notable in the document is that the conservatives have their misconception:

"The six-year mandatory sexuality and RH education is being questioned by conservative groups, pointing out that allowing young people access to RH information and services will encourage promiscuity and that the State should not take over the role of parents in educating their children on sexuality."

This has to be supplanted by the fact that:

"Cross-country evidence from the UNFPA, however, show that sex education among the youth lead to responsible behavior, higher levels of abstinence, later initiation of sexuality, higher use of contraception and fewer sexual partners."