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Gays warn Philippine village councils: condom ordinances to boost HIV risks

By ProGay Philippines
March 30, 2011

BAGUIO CITY  –  GAY, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender rights (LGBT) activists decried the ordinance restricting the sale, distribution and use of condoms in several barangay (village) councils in a Philippine province, saying that the measure will surely spike the rising HIV infection rates nationwide.

Goya Candelario, spokesperson of the The Progressive Organization of Gays (ProGay Philippines), said that the group opposes the successive passage of local ordinances that require consumers to obtain medical prescriptions for acquiring condoms in Manila and in Bataan.

This is such a dangerous trend, coming at a time when HIV infections in the Philippines have suddenly increased in the past two years. Making it difficult for most at risk populations or MARPs to obtain preventive measures such as condoms can surely promote more transmission of HIV and parallel infections," Candelario said.

ProGay also said that it is high time to enact the comprehensive reproductive health bill so that not only heterosexual couples can get access to health care but also the low-income LGBTs of the country, which the groups said should also benefit from health legislation.

The gay advocacy group is backing the Comprehensive Reproductive Health Bill proposed by Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan in the House of Representatives. At the moment, five different bills have been consolidated into House Bill 4244 or An Act Providing for a National Policy on Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development.

ProGay said that although LGBT health concerns are not yet highlighted in HB 4244, any positive reproductive health measure can eventually benefit LGBTs as some services, education campaigns and benefits can be tailored by creative local governments to cater to the special needs of LGBTs.

"Gays and lesbians are also members of poor families and caring and providing for health needs that are part of our burdens. If the RH Bill is passed, that would provide a little government assistance for health care, lessening costs which can then be channeled for education, housing and food," Candelario explained.

The ProGay leader revealed that the health care sector of the country must also be updated to become more gender-sensitive and focus specific services for LGBT reproductive health needs, as the these populations can be more prone to undiagnosed cervical cancers, breast cancers, and STDs. ProGay said that poverty has pushed some gay and transgender youth into prostitution, which exposes them to even greater risks of HIV transmission.

"Because of discrimination they suffer from misinformed doctors and health workers, many LGBTs delay or avoid altogether early diagnostic procedures rather than be humiliated by moralistic medics," Candelario said.

The group said that condom ordinances in Bataan would increase the sense of shame and discrimination that LGBTs suffer, raising the likelihood that young and low income gays would practice unprotected sex.