Albay plan to distribute condoms to HS studes receives flak

UPWARD TREND IN HIV CASES, TEEN PREGNANCY. Antonio Ludovice, acting Albay provincial health officer, explains the side of the Provincial Health Office on the planned distribution of condoms to high school students to curb the increase in cases of HIV-AIDS and teenage pregnancy in the province. (Photo by Connie Calipay)

LEGAZPI CITY -- The plan of the Albay Provincial Health Office (APHO) to distribute condoms to high school students to prevent further rise in cases of human immunodeficiency virus-acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV-AIDS) and teenage pregnancy in the province was slammed by the Department of Education (DepEd) and a church-based organization.

Gilbert Sadsad, Department of Education (DepEd) regional director, said in an interview on Thursday that the agency would not allow the distribution of condoms and contraceptives in schools.

He said if the Albay provincial health office would insist on doing so, he would bring this matter to Education Secretary Leonor Briones so she could issue an official statement.

Fr. Al Ray Compuesto of the Commission on the Youth of the Diocese of Legazpi, in a separate interview, also expressed opposition to the planned distribution of condoms in schools.

He said, “saddened that while the church is celebrating the Year of the Youth, the gift to our youth is condom instead of teaching them the importance of their welfare and their role in the community.”

“Can’t they look for other ways to address these health issues rather than giving condoms? The school serves as the second home of the youth where they learn many things about life, environment, and God,” Compuesto said.

Asked what action they would take on the matter, he said they would write the DepEd about their stand and issue a pastoral circular to all churches in Albay opposing the plan.

On the other hand, Antonio Ludovice, acting Albay provincial health officer, said they would be giving out condoms to high school students in various public and private schools in the province as a health measure following reports that HIV-AIDS and teenage pregnancy have been a rising trend in Bicol, especially in Albay.

Ludovice said they would coordinate with the church and the DepEd concerning this health program but he insisted that he would continue to implement the advocacy drive against HIV and teenage pregnancy.

Department of Health data on HIV showed there was a 33-percent increase in the number of HIV cases in Albay last year compared to the previous year. There were 106 cases recorded in 2018, while there were only 71 cases in 2017.

Ludovice said, “This makes Albay the No. 1 among Bicol provinces in the reported cases of HIV.”

Among the effective health strategies that could control and prevent the rising number of HIV cases and teenage pregnancies is aggressive information and advocacy, including the distribution of condoms in hotels, public places and schools, he pointed out.

“We are not encouraging promiscuity among the youth but these health issues should be given attention. Someone should take the cudgels, that's why I am doing this,” Ludovice said. (PNA)