MANILA, Philippines?Advocates for victims of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) gave their support to the passage of the reproductive health bill filed before the House of Representatives.
The group Girls Women and HIV & AIDS Network (GWHAN) said the country urgently needs a national reproductive health program due to the increasing number of HIV-positive cases.
GWHAN chairman Marlon Lacsamana in a statement said having a national policy on reproductive health should stop those who wish to "demonize" the use of condoms against the spread of the disease.
In September, 57 more people were reported to be HIV-positive, a 128 percent increase compared to the same period last year, according to the latest data from the Department of Health.
Of the 57 HIV-positive cases, one of them has full-blown AIDS, the DOH said.
This brought to 395 the total number of reported HIV-positive cases this year, and a total of 17 AIDS cases.
"This alarming statistic supports the call for the immediate passage of the reproductive health bill now being deliberated in the House of the Representatives," said Lacsamana in the statement.
"Moreover, the widespread disinformation, misinformation and increased efforts to demonize condom use must be disproved with accurate data," he added.
A person who is HIV-positive is susceptible to a number of infections and symptoms that could lead to AIDS, due to the damage to his immune system.
The virus is transmitted through bodily fluids during sexual contact and blood transfusion, and could be passed on by an infected mother to her baby.
At their general assembly last October 26, GWHAN declared that it was their "responsibility as pioneers and leaders of the HIV advocacy to register their support for the passage of the reproductive health bill and to stand behind organized groups and networks advocating its immediate passage."
Lawmakers are expected to resume their deliberations on House Bill 5043 or the Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development Act of 2008.
The reproductive health bill requires government hospitals to include contraceptives in their supplies purchase and requires mandatory reproductive health education in schools.
The bill also requires local governments to employ enough midwives or attendants for a ratio of one for every 150 deliveries per year; to have an emergency obstetric care and maternal death review; and to provide mobile health care services
The Catholic Church hierarchy has strongly opposed the entire measure for promoting the use of contraceptives and teaching sex education in schools.
The Catholic Church wants only the natural family planning method following a woman's reproductive cycle.
Several Catholic professors from Ateneo however supported the bill, arguing that limiting the country to natural family planning "will be a disservice if not a grave injustice to women and couples for whom NFP simply cannot work."
They said giving women access to other "medically-safe, legal, affordable and quality" family planning methods would prevent "unwanted, unplanned and mistimed pregnancies, which are the root cause of induced abortions."