While the rest of the world is seeing a steady decline in Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) cases, the Philippines has become the country with the “fastest-growing epidemic” of the disease. The Department of Health’s data shows a daily increase of 35 cases per day with 6,372 new cases having been recorded from January 2019 to June 2019. And HIV isn’t even the most common sexually transmitted disease in the Philippines.
The exact numbers are difficult to determine since there is no comprehensive record of STDs in the Philippines but it can be estimated that the more common ones are 2 or 3 times more likely to be transmitted than HIV. According to Dr. Gilbert Yang, a dermatologist, “in a random group of 10, based on my clinical practice, STDs include 3 gonorrhea, 2 genital warts, 2 cases of herpes, 1 case of HIV and 2 cases of other sexually transmitted infection, like Molluscum contagiosum.”
Meanwhile, teen pregnancy has been declared a “national social emergency” by the government. With 530 teenagers getting pregnant daily and 16% of them being “repeat pregnancies”, it isn’t difficult to see why.
A parallel of sex education in the Philippines
So what do all of these have in common? The dire situation of sex-related problems in the Philippines can only logically be blamed on one thing: an inadequate sex education program. HIV, STDs, and teen pregnancies are all obviously the result of unsafe sex, which people engage in because they either don’t know any better or never had the urgency of safe sex impressed upon them.
According to a UNESCO policy paper, “even children at the age of five need to understand basic facts about their body, think about family and social relationships and recognize inappropriate behavior and identify abuse. [Otherwise] many will grow up with inaccurate beliefs.”
It furthermore states that “in many parts of the world, opposition to comprehensive sexuality education has not only halted progress in sexual and reproductive health and rights but reversed it.” This is exactly why it is high time that the Philippines adopted a more complete and effective sex education program.
In a country as conservative as the Philippines, it is unfortunately still quite common for parents to shy away from having “the talk” with their children. So if no one else will do it, it really is up to the education system to prepare children in all facets of life. We have to move away from simply discussing sex in biological terms and turn to prioritize practical information. From the use of contraceptives to hygienic practices, these are the changes we need to begin seeing in the Philippines’ sex education program.
There is a myth that sex education will encourage a more promiscuous environment, which is why many take a moral stance against it. But limiting people’s access to information on safe sexual practices won’t magically stop their urges. They will simply engage in it without the necessary information or proper knowledge. People will have sex either way. Let’s at least give them the opportunity to have safe sex.
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