Pope hits the nail right on the head!

By Jason de Asis


SENATE OFFICE, Manila, November 24, 2010- By now, officials of the Catholic Church may be raising hell – literally and figuratively – over the recent statements of Pope Benedict XVI that use of condoms may be used as a means to fight HIV/AIDS. At a time when so-called pro-life priests and Catholic lay leaders are moving heaven and earth to fight the RH Bill, the Pope’s statements come like a dampener to frenzied efforts to have it killed in Congress.Sumakitanguloko…A lot of questions entered my mind.


The Pope, in a 219-page book that embodies his responses to questions raised by German Catholic journalist Peter Seewald, replied that the use of condoms can be in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, “a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more humanway of living sexuality.”


Quick on the draw, Sen. Pia S. Cayetano, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography lauded the Pope’s pronouncements as she urged public support for the Department of Health (DOH) to pursue its campaign on HIV/AIDS education and awareness. She said it is with a huge sigh of relief that she welcomes the statements of the Pope and his acknowledgment that condom use may be justified to help stop the spread of AIDS.


I cannot but agree more with the Pope and the senator in this respect. I honestly believe that this would impact on the Philippine government's own campaign to address rising cases of HIV/AIDS in the country.


If Catholic Church officials have adopted a hardline stance with regards to the RH bill, they should take a closer look and take a cue from the Pope himself and, in the words of Malacañang itself, be “more Popish than the Pope.”


I think that the Pope, from a more practical standpoint, realizes that HIV/AIDS cannot just be combated effectively by sexual abstinence or discipline. It goes beyond that and condom use can be an effective safeguard. At least there is an effort to safeguard although condoms are not exactly fool-proof and fail-safe mechanisms at combating the evils of sexual promiscuity and sexually transmitted diseases.


On a larger spectrum of human dimension, I congratulate Cayetano for opening the eyes of the public on the far-reaching effects of responsible use of condoms which is capable of warding off other deadly and highly communicable diseases that are transmitted sexually. These include the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted virus known to cause cervical cancer, and the Hepatitis B Virus (HBV), which can also be transmitted through sexual contact.


Based on her research, it is estimated that 7,000 Filipino women are diagnosed with cervical cancer yearly and reported as the second leading cause of death among women in the country. On the other hand, around 8 million Filipinos are estimated to be carriers of the HBV, which is known to cause various liver ailments including liver cancer.


Back to HIV/AIDS, the figures on the rise of cases stagger the imagination. Cateyano says that based on latest official figures from the National Epidemiology Center, there were 153 new HIV positive cases documented from January to September this year, which is a 173% jump compared to the 56 cases documented during the same period last year. Of this number, three were reported as AIDS cases.


Over a 16-year period from 1984-2010, there are 852 verified AIDS cases of the 5,625 HIV positive cases. About 9 in every 10 persons who tested positive for HIV contacted the virus through sexual contact.


What is doubly alarming is that the figure is still understated because the government's HIV and AIDS registry only covers cases reported to accredited HIV testing facilities.


It’s heartening that people like Senator Cayetano are sounding the alarm bells on the perils of HIV/AIDS unlike our Catholic lay leaders who continue to harp about the RH Bill but actually don’t possess the Solomonic wisdom necessary to wipe out the evils of this omnipotent threat to mankind.Is it right or wrong?


I asked Fr. Francis B. Lucas,CBCP Executive Secretary Episcopal Commission on Social Communication and Mass Media-National Office of Mass Media (NOMM) and at the same time the Catholic Media Network (CMN) Chairman  about the issue…Hesaid that the pope statement is wide open to misinterpretation and wanton misinformation by those promoting anti-life activities. I agree with him. (Jason de Asis)