THEY were at odds during the bitter debate over the Reproductive Health (RH) law, but Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd and former Health secretary Janette Garin now see eye to eye in opposing plans to give away condoms to public high school students.
Sotto told reporters Garin agreed with him that distributing condoms in schools as a strategy to curb the rise in HIV and AIDS cases would be a faulty strategy.
“There should be no condom distribution in schools… It’s a distorted strategy similar to tolerating drugs using needles just to address HIV,” Sotto quoted Garin as saying.
Sought for confirmation, Garin, who campaigned for the passage of the RH law, tol ally transmitted diseases) and HIV among MSMs (men having sex with men), it is different when you think about school-based distribution,” she said.
“Schools are great venues for health services. That is why my team and the DOH (Department of Health) family embarked on school-based immunization, mass de-worming, provision of medical and dental clinics,” the former lawmaker said.
“We have been waiting for the Department of Education to finish its review of the proposed age-appropriate RH education. I believe until now, it is being thoroughly assessed and evaluated. Then teachers will be trained how to communicate it. Distributing condoms in the schools will just complicate matters,” she added.
As for the claim on the ballooning number of HIV and AIDS cases in the country, Garin said this was due to underreporting and lack of testing facilities in the past. Now that the government has more provisions for anti-retroviral drugs, more patients have decided to come out, she said.
Garin also pointed out that because government funds are limited, “condom distribution should be thoroughly discussed and wastage should be minimized if not avoided.”
Sotto, who staunchly opposed the RH bill, said that instead of using taxpayers’ money in buying condoms to be distributed to minors, the Health department should focus on an information campaign against HIV and AIDS and tell students the consequences of engaging in sex at a young age.
Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial and Sotto’s former protégé, National Youth Commission Chairman Aiza Seguerra, earlier lashed out at the Senate majority leader for opposing the condom-distribution plan.
Sotto argued that HIV and AIDS had never been attributed to sexual contact between students, but to males having sex with males.
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano is also not in favor of the condom-distribution plan and urged the Health department to take a step back.
Cayetano said that while he is for sex education, it should be sensitive to culture and religion.
Condoms, he said, are easily available to those who want to use them.
“It has to be available but it has to be made available confidentially, and it should not be made available in a way that promotes premarital sex,” Cayetano said.