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DOH allots P1 B to distribute condoms in schools

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) is bent on launching an awareness campaign against HIV/AIDS by pushing through with the plan to distribute condoms in public high schools despite opposition from the Catholic Church.

In a briefing in Malacañang yesterday, Health Undersecretary Gerardo Bayugo said the plan is included in the government’s P3.35-trillion budget for 2017, where P1 billion has been allocated for the HIV-AIDS program.

The budget includes HIV testing, condom distribution, and awareness campaign. Fifty million pesos to P100 million were allocated for procurement of condom for population control, he said.

The P1-billion fund for HIV-AIDS program is different from the DOH funds intended for implementation of the reproductive health law and population control projects of the agency, the health official added.

Bayugo also bared that 10 million condoms stored at the DOH central office in Manila are up for distribution in public high schools in Metro Manila, Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog.

Asked why the condoms have not yet been distributed, Bayugo said the DOH is still looking for a way to make it acceptable among high school students starting next year.

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“While they are not being used, these are ready to be mobilized in case there will be rural health units or health centers that will be requesting additional supplies,” he explained.

“We have not procured the condom for distribution because we still have a lot condoms in our stocks. But depending on the success of this campaign, since it will not be nationwide initially, it will be prioritized to some high-risk region,” he added.

DOH praying to convince Catholic Church

Asked to comment on the Catholic Church’s strong opposition to the distribution of condoms, Bayugo said the DOH is working to have better consultation with private and public sectors.

He also said DOH officials and personnel are “praying hard” that the Catholic Church will hear their concerns. 

“I hope the Church will understand that this… And we are very much willing to seek their assistance and help in promoting awareness about the morality of our children – the proper way that children need to behave sexually and the condom is just there as a stopgap,” Bayugo said. 

“It doesn’t mean that if the teacher or the school gave you a condom, you have to use it. It’s a sign of you getting the information, you getting more responsible and respect for your peers.

“The message is we need to inform the youth about HIV because the knowledge, the awareness, of the youth is very low. 

“It’s less than 20 percent actually based on the several surveys that we have done –17 percent to be exact is the awareness level of general young population on the HIV/AIDS. So it’s very low,” he added.

The health official also expressed alarm over the rising incidents of teenage pregnancy.                

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