Philippines: Respect and love equals condom

“Respect” and “love” have not co-existed comfortably with the condom, but if this latex barrier against disease is promoted in the context of self-respect, love and care, more Filipinos will use it to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections, according Dr. Louie Ocampo, the new Philippine country director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

Ocampo, who assumed office on Jan. 8, 2018, offered an “alternative mindset associated with the use of condoms by thinking beyond its health-related significance and repackaging it in the context of self-respect, love and care for people” to help fill the gaps that government and civil society groups have been struggling with in asking people to use condoms.

Ocampo, 44, chief of the medical and professional staff of the Ospital ng Palawan in Puerto Princesa City since 2015 until his UN appointment, is the first community doctor and one of the youngest to lead the UNAIDS office in the Philippines, headed previously by Filipinos who were picked from national and international posts.

In explaining his approach to condom use, Ocampo cited the Health Belief Model (HBM), a psychological model that seeks to explain and predict health behaviors by focusing on individuals’ attitudes and beliefs. He said the most successful public health programs are based on an understanding of health behaviors and the context in which they occur. The HBM posits that people’s perceptions about their health risks and the benefits of taking action to avoid disease, influence their readiness to act on their situation.

The new UNAIDS country director said he will strongly advocate for the institutionalization of comprehensive sexuality education in the curriculum of all schools in the country that includes condom use. “Age-appropriate sexual health education should be taught prior to the age where the adolescents start exploring their sexuality,” he said, again citing the importance of looking at behavior.

“Knowledge is the primary ingredient to behavior change. Learning the right behavior at the onset is much easier than unlearning the bad ones. Only then we can change the bad practices of having unprotected sex to using the condom consistently and correctly during sexual activity.”

He said both the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law of 2012 (RA 10354) and the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998 (RA 8504) provide for comprehensive sexuality education that includes sexual health, children’s rights, and values formation.

Because the epidemic is shifting to MSM and the younger population, he said the government should revisit its policies by expending educational HIV prevention efforts and lowering the age of access to condoms and reproductive health information. Read more via PhilStar