DOLE plans to give out female condoms

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is eyeing the distribution of female condoms in workplaces to protect women workers from HIV/AIDS infection.

Labor Assistant Secretary Teresa Soriano said various DOLE agencies are looking at ways to implement a program that would provide free condoms for women workers nationwide.

“The DOLE is discussing it with the Occupational Safety and Health Center (OSHC) on how we could pursue such a program because we should protect women workers who are the ones usually being forced into sex by their husbands,” Soriano said.

She, however, said female condoms are not yet available in the local market.

“Female condoms are available in other countries like Mexico. We don’t have these yet here. Using female condoms is also different from using male condoms, thus there is a need to educate women. We are studying how to go about it,” Soriano added.

She also said the DOLE is soon coming out with a department order (DO) that would require all commercial establishments to strictly implement anti-AIDS programs.

The proposed DO, which is awaiting the signature of Labor Secretary Marianito Roque, also encourages employers to provide reproductive health services, including free condoms, to their employees.

Acting OSHC executive director Teresita Cucueco said HIV prevention programs must be implemented in all companies and not only in certain industries like call centers, where a large number of workers are reported to be at high risk of acquiring the deadly infection.

“It’s not the kind of industry but their risky behavior that exposes them to the infection, so there is a need to put up a program that would educate and provide services for all workers,” Cucueco said.

According to DOLE, the greater bulk of 35 million workers nationwide and 7 million Filipino workers abroad are at a great risk of acquiring HIV due to lack of effective programs in workplaces.

For her part, Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral said any program that provides free condoms for workers is a good move to stop the spread of HIV in the workplace.

“A condom only costs P3.30 but if a worker gets infected with HIV, he or she would lose the opportunity to earn P200,000 a year and would also cost the government another P200,000 for the treatment,” she said.

Cabral’s move to provide free condoms to the public has the full backing of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, the country’s largest labor group.

CBCP official to DOH: Release HIV/AIDS cases in provinces

Meanwhile, an official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) yesterday dared the DOH to release a breakdown of HIV/AIDS cases per province.

CBCP Media Office director Monsignor Pedro Quitorio III said he believes that the DOH is tricking the people into believing that the problem of HIV/AIDS in the country is bigger than it actually is.

He said he does not believe that there are now 3,000 HIV/AIDS cases in the country as reported by the DOH.

“Where are they? Where are these thousands (of patients) that the DOH is talking about? Show us the warm bodies. I believe that there are people who are sick but they are not big as it is being projected by the DOH,” Quitorio said before members of Knights of Columbus (KC) who staged a rally in Manila yesterday, protesting condom and contraceptive use.

The KC is considered the country’s biggest organization of Catholic men.

Quitorio said pharmaceutical companies are benefiting by misinforming the public on the situation of the disease because the government would buy contraceptive pills, which would mean profit for the manufacturers.

“There is no denying that billions of dollars for HIV/AIDS prevention (has been spent) as a result of this hype. It created a new industry bent on enlarging its market through spreading the HIV/AIDS panic,” Quitorio said.

Source: Philstar


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