HIV smaller than condoms, Sotto claims
MANILA (UPDATED) – National Youth Commission (NYC) chairperson Aiza Seguerra has criticized Senator Vicente Sotto III, who opposes government efforts to promote safe sex.
Seguerra, a former child star who worked with Sotto in a noontime show, slammed the senator for condemning Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial who plans to distribute condoms to at-risk high school students.
“Mabilis na pagtaas ng HIV/AIDS lalo na sa kabataan, laganap na teenage pregnancy at patuloy na pagtaas ng populasyon ang nagiging sanhi kung kaya't marami sa ating mga kababayan ang naghihirap at hindi nakaka access ng dekalidad na serbisyo ng gobyerno,” Seguerra said in a statement on Facebook.
(There has been a rapid increase in HIV/AIDS cases in the youth. Teenage pregnancy is rampant, and population is getting higher; hence many of our countrymen remain poor and don't have access to quality service).
“Hindi po ito haka-haka (These are not mere speculations), Mr. Senator. These are facts. Based on science and research.”
Seguerra said Sotto does not seem to grasp the gravity of the problem of teenage pregnancy and HIV/AIDS (Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) epidemic in the country.
Sotto has been at the forefront of the fight against the distribution of artificial birth control methods to the general public despite the passage and upholding of the constitutionality of the Reproductive Health Law.
The senator recently traded barbs with Ubial, who took to social media to air her frustrations against those who are opposing her department’s plan to distribute condoms to students.
The health secretary said these groups are “imposing their beliefs on others.”
“Let those who want to practice safe sex do so--according to their own beliefs and consciences,” she said.
In response, Sotto said it is Ubial, and not pro-life groups, who is imposing her beliefs on the public.
Sotto said, it was “insensitive” of Ubial to “dismiss the sentiment of a conservative culture just because they failed to implement effective health programs.”
“Look who's talking? It's a boomerang to her. She should not only impose her beliefs on us who oppose but to the entire country,” Sotto said in a statement.
“Your position is temporary but the damage you will cause cannot be reversed."
'WHO'S IMPOSING HIS BELIEFS NOW?'
In his statement, Seguerra sided with Ubial, saying it is the government’s responsibility to prioritize public welfare.
“Matagal ng ipinagpaliban ang pagpapatupad ng RH dahil sa ‘beliefs’ ninyo and look where it has brought us. You say ‘it's insensitive to dismiss the sentiment of a conservative culture just because they failed to implement effective health programs.’ We have an epidemic here, a youth epidemic,” Seguerra said.
“It is precisely because of this ‘sentiment of a conservative culture’ kaya lalong pataas ng pataas ang HIV…Would you rather people keep dying of HIV/AIDS as long as hindi na o-offend ang sensibilities ninyo? Now, sino ang nag iimpose ng beliefs sa nakararami?”
Reacting to Seguerra's statement, Sotto claimed that the rise in HIV cases in the country cannot be attributed to sexual contact between students, but on men having sex with men.
"I'd rather believe the former secretary of health than fledgling politicians," Sotto said.
"Besides, for their information, HIV is smaller than the pores of condoms which can only prevent pregnancy. Scientifically proven...I suggest they buy themselves some time to read and study before you speak about serious issues that men like me have been championing for decades," he alleged.
Health experts including the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend the use of condoms to help reduce the spread of sexually transmitted infections including HIV.
EXPERTS DEBUNK SOTTO ON CONDOMS
In an interview, Dr. Kevin De Cock from WHO's HIV/AIDS department said that while condoms are not the only way to prevent the spread of infection, they play a big part in prevention.
"The best information on the effectiveness of condoms comes from looking at large numbers of couples where one person is infected and the other is not, and following those over time and comparing the rates of transmission...[between] high condom users and people who did not use condoms," he said.
"Such studies suggest that condoms are at least 80 percent, and possibly more, effective in reducing the transmission of HIV for co-habiting couples."
The U.S. government's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also said that "consistent and correct use" of condoms helps prevent the spread of HIV, as laboratory studies have shown that they are an "effective barrier against even the smallest STD pathogens."
Such studies go at least 20 years back, with a U.S. study published in 1992 saying that condoms significantly reduced the risk of HIV transmission.
In addition to condom use, other reliable means of disease prevention include abstaining from sexual activity, or maintenance of a long-term monogamous relationship, the CDC said.
The Foundation for AIDS research meanwhile emphasized that in order to keep condoms "close to 99 percent effective" in preventing HIV, it is best to use latex condoms, and only water-based lubricants during intercourse.