Health dept to respect Educ dept’s decision on proposed condom distribution in schools

MANILA — Health Secretary Dr. Paulyn Ubial said Thursday her department is ready to respect the decision of the Department of Education (DepEd) regarding their proposal to distribute condoms in schools in a bid to check the alarming rise in HIV cases among youths.

Ubial said that while they are determined to push for the proposal as they continue their discussions with DepEd, they will not oppose any unfavorable decision from the latter.

“We’re still talking to DepEd. Yung strategy, hindi naman namin ipipilit sa DepEd kung ayaw nila (We will not force DepEd to accept our proposal if they turn it down),” she said, adding that they would abide by whatever both sides would agree upon.

At the moment, she said, what is important is to ensure that teachers and school personnel are ready to provide students the right information on HIV and how it is spread, as well as proper counseling.

Acknowledging that some teachers would not be comfortable in implementing their strategy to distribute condoms in schools, Ubial said her department will begin their campaign in schools with an information drive on sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS.

The department has already developed a reference manual on HIV for school teachers, which they pilot-tested last year, she said, adding that the manual will also educate parents through parent-teacher associations to prepare them on how to discuss the health issue with their children.

She further disclosed that the strategy to distribute condoms is not a “stand-alone policy” of the Department of Health (DOH) but is one of six strategies under the National AIDS Medium-Term Plan. The plan was developed to deal with the spike in the country’s HIV cases, particularly among the youth.

The strategies in the medium-term plan, which she said have been proven to be safe and effective in other countries, include access to condoms; expanding of information to children and youths with special focus on knowledge, attitude and practices; and scaling of prevention activities among key affected population with the introduction of a new approach.

The health chief pointed out that the youth was brought into the campaign due to the rise in HIV cases among those in the 15-24 age group, as well as the risky sexual behaviors of minors, hence the need to give the young the necessary life skills to prevent such risky behaviors.

Meanwhile, the health department is also eyeing the possibility of tapping the youth to educate and protect their peers from HIV transmission.

“We will make the youths become the advocates to their classmates and friends… Our main strategy will be information and education for the youth,” Ubial said, explaining that the youths will be given training and counseling by their teachers, using the reference materials on HIV.

The health chief also said that they welcome suggestions from all sectors on how to combat the increase in HIV cases, as the issue concerns everyone and not just the DOH. Leilani Junio/PNA-northboundasia.com