In a December report, Human Rights Watch criticized the government for not taking effective steps to reduce infection rates among men who have sex with men, the group with the most new infections. It said the government had failed to make condoms available to these men and should help them access health services. It should also help them fight stigma and discrimination. (READ: Human Rights Watch: PH gov't 'fueling' HIV epidemic)
The bill’s major flaw is its lack of specificity about the crucial role of condoms in HIV prevention.
Lawmakers should address this by directing the Department of Health (DOH) to improve condom access, particularly among men who have sex with men. Doing so would help push back conservative lawmakers who hope to prevent promotion of condom use as part of safer sex education. It will also counter the recent decision by the DOH and the Department of Education (DepEd) to withdraw a proposal to make condoms accessible to high school students.
Senate Bill 1390 would be a major step for official efforts to control the HIV epidemic. Now it’s up to Philippine legislators to see the wisdom of a better official response to the HIV epidemic and to pass a version of the bill including provisions on condom use. – Rappler.com
Carlos Conde is a researcher for the Asia Division at Human Rights Watch.