And yet despite this, the country’s President, Rodrigo Duterte, said that people should stop using condoms as they’re not “pleasurable.”
New figures from the Filipino health department have revealed that new HIV cases have skyrocketed in the past 10 years. In 2007, there were only 342 new cases, but last year there were 11,103 new recorded cases. And even that is a 20% increase from 2016, when there were 9,264 new cases reported.
Filipino journalist and activist Ana Santos told Al Jazeera that the lack of condom use from Filipinos is the reason that the numbers have been skyrocketing. She said that there was a “shame and stigma” around condoms not being pleasurable.
She then slammed Duterte’s comments, saying: “His comment on condoms tells us how little he knows about the HIV epidemic in the Philippines, and how condoms are a scientifically proven method to prevent its spread.”
Carlos Conde, a Human Rights Watch representative also criticised Duterte’s remarks, saying that he should be taking more “meaningful action” to promote condom use. He added: “Policies restricting access to condoms are a threat to public health.”
Duterte typically isn’t on the progressive side when it comes to LGBTQ issues. In 2016, he called the US Ambassador to the Philippines a “gay son of a whore”, and last year he said that prison caused people to acquire “latent homosexuality”.
Ronnievinn Pagtakhan, who runs a health centre in the country’s capital, Manila, called the issue an “endemic”, and that the figures were “alarming”.
“In view of the explosive growth in the number of HIV infections in the Philippines, we need more conversations rather than quick judgement and hate,” he added.
The people who were at the highest risk of contracting the disease were men who had sex with men, and trans women who had sex with men.
The Philippines Department of Health estimated that in less than 10 years, 90% of people living with the disease would be under 30.
Last year, in a statement, Federal politician Harlin Neil Abayon said: “The latest data on HIV/AIDS in the Philippines is terrifying. The victims are getting younger and there are many young millennial men having sex with other men who contract HIV in the process.”