Church questions plan to give condoms to Albay students
LEGAZPI CITY — A plan by the Albay provincial government to distribute condoms to Grades 11 and 12 students in public and private schools ran into a wall of criticism from the Church and the Department of Education.
The plan was supposedly designed to prevent human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) cases from spreading in the province.
It was also being promoted as a means to prevent teenage pregnancies.
According to Antonio Ludovice, acting Albay health officer, the plan involved giving condoms to students as part of a health campaign designed in response to reports that cases of HIV, AIDS and teenage pregnancies were on the rise in the Bicol region, especially in Albay.
Data from the Department of Health showed that 71 cases of HIV was reported in the province in 2017. At least 35 more cases were added to that in 2018, bringing the total number to 106, or an increase of 33 percent.
“This makes Albay No. 1 among Bicol provinces in reported cases of HIV,” Ludovice said.
“One of the reasons for the rising number of HIV cases is people had been liberal when engaging in premarital sex, specifically the youth whose age ranges from 13 to 19,” he said.
But despite the numbers, Gilbert Sadsad, Department of Education (DepEd) regional director, said the DepEd would not allow the distribution of condoms and contraceptives in schools.
If the provincial health office would insist, Sadsad said he would refer the matter to Education Secretary Leonor Briones for the DepEd chief to issue an official stand on the plan.
Fr. Al Ray Compuesto, of the Commission on Youth of the Diocese of Legazpi, also expressed opposition to the plan.
Gift to youth
He said he was “saddened that while the Church is celebrating the Year of the Youth, the gift to our youth is condom.”
Compuesto questioned why the provincial government would distribute condoms to the youth instead of imparting lessons to them about “the importance of their welfare and their role in the community.”
Asked what action the Church would take, Compuesto said he would write to the DepEd about the Church’s position.
The diocese would also issue a pastoral letter to all churches in Albay expressing opposition to the plan.
“Can’t they look for other ways to address these health issues rather than giving condoms?” Compuesto said.
“The school serves as the second home of the youth where they learn many things about life, environment and God,” he added.
Ludovice said among the effective strategies to control and prevent the spread of HIV and teenage pregnancies was to launch an aggressive information campaign.
This, he said, would also require distributing condoms in hotels and public places that included schools.
“We are not encouraging promiscuity among the youth but these health issues should be given attention,” Ludovice said.
Taking up the cudgels
“Someone should take up the cudgels for health, that’s why I am doing this,” he said.
Child pregnancy cases in Albay also continued to rise with 1,469 cases in 2017, 1,423 in 2018 and 118 cases just last January and February.
Records also showed that five teenagers have died while giving birth since 2015.
Ludovice, when asked for comment on criticisms of the plan, said provincial health officials would coordinate with the Church and the DepEd.
But he said he would continue to implement the health office’s campaign against HIV and teenage pregnancies.
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