Philippines President Tells Men Not to Use Condoms as HIV Rate Soars 3,000%
“Avoid condoms because it is not satisfying.”
That staggering number represents the increase in HIV diagnoses in the Philippines over the past decade, even as efforts to combat HIV around the world have made remarkable progress in the same period.
Between 2015 and 2016, the number of new HIV cases around the world decreased from 2.1 million to 1.8 million. Meanwhile, in the Philippines, the number rose from 9,264 new cases to 11,103 new cases from 2016 to 2017, a year-over-year increase that is just one example of a decade-long trend of increases, according to data from the country’s health agency, Al Jazeera reported.
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Since 2007, there has been a 3,147% increase in new cases, which the UN says is the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the Asia-Pacific region.
So what is going on in Philippines that runs counter to the rest of the world’s efforts to fight HIV?
One contributing factor, according to health experts, is the actions of President Rodrigo Duterte, who has discouraged condom use among men. He said last week that citizens should avoid using condoms because they are “not satisfying.”
"I am not joking. Just follow the government programme [on reproductive health]. We have free pills but just avoid condoms, because it is not satisfying," he said.
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According to the Miami Herald, Duterte then put a wrapped piece of candy in his mouth for comparison.
“Here, try eating it without unwrapping it,” he said. “Eat it. That’s what a condom is like.”
More than 95% of new HIV cases in the Philippines involved male transmission, which can be prevented through condom use, according to Al Jazeera.
Carlos Conde, a Human Rights Watch representative, told Al Jazeera that Duterte "should take meaningful action" on policies, such as expanding condom access.
Because HIV is a sexually transmitted disease, condom use and safe sex practices can help prevent its spread. Conde and HIV activists have encouraged Duterte to promote condom use as one method of decreasing new HIV cases in the country.