Real solution to AIDS

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The Inquirer’s Dec. 6 editorial (“In the real world”) made the case for the use of condoms to stop the HIV epidemic in the Philippines. To support the proposal, it cited statistics of rising HIV incidence year after year.

Mention was made of the Department of Health stopping the purchase of condoms in 2001, and when the supply of condoms ran out, the number of infections increased. Thus the editorial made an implicit connection between the depletion of condom supply and the rise of HIV cases.

Then the editorial cited the Arroyo administration’s yielding to pressure from the Catholic Church to stop supplying condoms. Finally it stated: “Unless the leaders of the Church are prepared to question the validity itself of the DOH statistics, they should humbly accept the unavoidable conclusion that the no-condom policy they favor has put more Filipino lives—thousands more every year—at great risk. Christian duty requires nothing less.”

A sober consideration would reveal that the assumptions on which the editorial’s reasoning was based are false. One assumption was that Filipinos who do not want to be infected with HIV can get condoms only via the DOH. False: Everyone knows condoms are available in drugstores and at prices even the poor can afford. Why complicate life and go to the inaccessible DOH for supply if you do not want to contract HIV when you can get them from a drugstore?

Another assumption was that condoms stop AIDS transmission. False again: If condoms do stop HIV transmission, why is AIDS going beyond epidemic proportions in the First World where condoms flow in unlimited supplies?

The editorial blamed the Catholic Church for putting many Filipinos at risk because of its no-condom policy, as if Filipinos who do not use condoms are at risk of acquiring AIDS. False again: One is at risk only when he adopts a risky behavior, even when he has a condom. In fact, the experience of risk-takers shows that with a condom they take even bigger risks, and the chances of getting infected become bigger.

The editorial’s title implied that the position it adopted corresponds to the reality of things and the Church is out of touch with reality. I disagree. If there’s any institution in the world that knows AIDS patients up close and has done much to care for them, it is the Church. Go to Africa, America and Australia where AIDS cases abound and you will find Catholic health workers and centers taking care of people with the disease.

The Church shows its compassion for these sick people by its caring for them. The Church also shows compassion for every person by telling him the truth: The solution to the AIDS epidemic is one that involves attitude, not condoms. The attitude fostered by the use of condoms is one which trivializes sex. It tells you, you can have sex even when it’s risky. The attitude the Church fosters is the complete opposite. The Church promotes chastity. The Church teaches that sex is sacred. It is meant for faithful married life and for the transmission of life.

—FR. CECILIO MAGSINO,

cesmagsino@gmail.com

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