Thursday, December 1, 2011

World AIDS Day: Getting to ZERO

Getting to ZERO.

As we participate in the observance of the 24th World AIDS Day, the University of the Philippines Babaylan remains steadfast in its commitment to increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve HIV/AIDS education among the constituents of the State University.

In 2010, there were 2.7 million new HIV infections and 1.8 million people dying from AIDS worldwide, with the number of new cases dropping by about 20% over the past decade. However, the recently released UNAIDS Global AIDS Report alarmingly identified the Philippines as one of seven countries which reported a more than 25% increase in new HIV infections between 2001 and 2009. Young LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) Filipinos continue to be at risk, with sex between men accounting for nearly 80 percent of all the 2010 cases (these numbers also include transgender women who have sex with men, since there is no gender recognition law in the Philippines), and more than half of those infected aged between 20 and 29.

As students who are proud to be LGBT, we feel the urgent need for our society to make positive connections between sexuality, health and human rights. Sexual well-being is integral to human development. Instead of stigmatizing sex and sexual/gender minorities, we should promote good reproductive health and the realization of sexual rights, including rights to pleasure and fulfillment. These are crucial for achieving equality and social justice.

We urge the University administration to strengthen sexuality education in the academic curriculum, by making it more sex-positive and gender-sensitive. HIV/AIDS, like homophobia and transphobia, continues to spread in the Philippines because of ignorance and misinformation. Creating more RGEP courses such as Social Science 3 (Exploring Gender & Sexuality) and allowing more alternative classroom learning (ACLE) sessions on Sex, Gender, Sexuality, and HIV/AIDS could open up new avenues for information dissemination and risk mitigation. The Office of Guidance and Counseling should also be ready to offer unbiased support to students who are exploring their sexuality.

We call on our fellow Iskos to always practice safe sex whenever you engage in sexual activity. Use a condom correctly during penetrative sex. Aside from greatly reducing the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), this also lessens the chances of unwanted pregnancies. As part of the country's young educated force, we should also take the lead in informing and influencing the rest of our nation (including future generations) to adopt safer sex practices.

We invite the entire UP community to lobby with us for the passing of a comprehensive reproductive (and sexual) health law, which would provide for educational campaigns that discuss risky sexual behavior, the transmission of HIV/AIDS and other STIs, and their prevention and treatment. This law should also include access to life-saving supplies including condoms and antiretrovirals for HIV/AIDS.

UP Babaylan continues to have faith that with education, persistence and compassion, we will eventually reach zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.

01 December 2011

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