SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao: The government of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) will be “culturally sensitive” should the program on the distribution of condoms in schools be implemented in the region, ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman said.
Hataman made the statement during the ‘Tapatan sa ARMM’, a regular media forum in Cotabato City.
In the region, where most places are conservative and people consider sex-related topics taboo, Hataman underscored that the ARMM government will undertake measures to deliberate on the plan.
“Definitely, the ARMM government will be culturally sensitive,” Hataman said. He added that Islamic religious leaders such as the Regional Darul ‘Ifta, which is the authority on religious and cultural values of Muslims in the region, would be consulted on this issue.
Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Paulyn Ubial earlier said the program will be implemented nationwide in partnership with the Department of Education (DepEd) to stop the increasing cases of human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) among the youth.
However, the DepEd said it recognizes the need to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS among the youth and that discussions with the DOH on this matter will soon be conducted.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines also warned that condom distribution in schools will encourage pre-marital sex among Filipino youth noting it could even condone sexual activity among students.
The DOH has explained that condoms will not be distributed indiscriminately to students. Those receiving condoms will undergo counseling, and sex education discussions with their parents. Teachers, it noted, will be trained on how to handle sex education.
In the Philippines, 32,099 cases of HIV/AIDS were reported from 2011 to October 2016. Official data also showed 9,066 HIV/AIDS cases reported during the five-year period were traced to those aged 15 to 25.
The ARMM has remained at the bottom of the DOH’s list of regions with cases of HIV/AIDS. Despite this, the Infectious Diseases Cluster (IDC) of the ARMM’s Health department warned citizens not to be complacent.
“Whether we like it or not, we have HIV cases in the ARMM,” said Soraida Amilil, IDC cluster head. As of October last year, 13 cases of HIV have been reported while none has emerged as a full-blown AIDS case.
The region reported two AIDS cases and seven HIV cases in 2014. Since 1984, the region’s health department has reported a total of 76 cases of HIV while 11 were reported to have led to AIDS.