‘HIV, teen pregnancies robbing youth of future’

Paolo Romero - The Philippine Star
âHIV, teen pregnancies robbing youth of futureâ
The PSA’s 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey also reported that nine percent of 4.9 million teenage women aged 15-19 have begun childbearing years.
Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — The alarming surge in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections and teenage pregnancies is hobbling efforts to improve the country’s performance in education while robbing young Filipinos of their future, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian has warned.

Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate committee on basic education, prodded the departments of health (DOH) and of education as well as the Commission on Higher Education to strengthen their interventions on protecting the youth from sexually transmitted diseases, including the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), and to curb teenage pregnancies.

“One of the roots of the dire situation we’re facing now is the lack of information that we should disseminate to our schools. It’s both saddening and alarming that despite our efforts, many of our youth get HIV,” he said.

He added that interventions, like sexuality education, should sound the alarm on social media and dating apps’ role in the rise of HIV epidemic, as he cited a two-year United Nations study released in 2015 that said these apps gave Asia’s teenagers expanded options for casual and spontaneous sex. 

“For us to defeat this HIV epidemic, we have to go to schools and maximize opportunities to engage the young and vulnerable people. And we can’t just teach them what the solutions are, we have to provide them access on those interventions,” Gatchalian stressed.

The senator cited a report of the DOH’s Epidemiology Bureau that revealed 36 new cases recorded per day at the end of 2019, which is higher than the 35 new cases recorded in July 2019 and the 32 cases documented every day in 2018. 

A 2019 report by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) also revealed that there are approximately 77,000 people living with HIV in the Philippines and that more than 19,000 of this belong to the 15-24 age group. 

The UNAIDS also identified the Philippines as the country with the fastest growing number of HIV cases. Between 2010 and 2018, new HIV infections spiked from nearly 4,400 to more than 13,000 or 203 percent. Among these new infections were men who have sex with men (MSM), which accounted for 81 percent.

Only 27.9 percent of these MSMs are covered by prevention programs and 49.8 percent use condoms as a preventive measure, Gatchalian said.

Teen pregnancies 

He also called for greater efforts to curb teen pregnancies after the global education survey Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) revealed that the country’s female high school students outperformed their male counterparts in basic academic performance.

The PISA 2018 report showed that girls scored 27 points higher than boys in Reading Comprehension. In terms of performance in Mathematics, girls scored 12 points higher than boys and scored four points higher than boys in Science.

“In our earnest efforts to give our youth equal opportunity for education, it’s important that we identify the barriers in achieving our objectives. In the case of our young girls, we clearly see that early pregnancies is something we must immediately address,” Gatchalian urged.

“Fostering gender equality is about empowering half of our population with both the opportunities and skills to succeed in school and later on, in their professional lives,” he said, adding that teenage pregnancies deprive girls of “a better future.”

He cited the Philippines Statistics Authority (PSA)’s Annual Poverty Indicators Survey 2017, which indicated that “marriage or family matters” is the top reason why female out-of-school children and youth aged 6-24 are not attending school.

The PSA’s 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey also reported that nine percent of 4.9 million teenage women aged 15-19 have begun childbearing years.

The gender disparity in education is not only evident in the Philippines, Gatchalian said, as the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020 shows the persistence of gender inequalities in the acquisition of different competencies. 




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